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S. G. & E. L. ELBERT 




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Wilberforce's Interview with John Newton. 

Wilberforce's Life. 

p. 48 








No. 530 BROADWAY. 


Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, 


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the Southern District 
of New York. \ 


To indicate the sources from which this memorial 
has been drawn is hardly necessary. The very co- 
pious and minute biography and correspondence of 
Mr. Wilberforce, compiled by his sons, must of course 
furnish the material for whatever may be written 
of him. 

To cull from the mass of detail those portions 
most illustrative of character, and, by weaving the 
whole into a continuous narrative, so to present it 
as to interest the youth of our own country and 
times, has been the aim of the writer. 

In accomplishing this, a few other works, bearing 
directly upon the history of the period under review, 
have been incidentally consulted, 

Boston, May 10th, 1856. 





"William Wilberforce— Birth— Early Dispositions — Death of his 
Father — Removal to his Uncle's House — Domestic and Religious 
Influence — John Thornton — Return to Hull — Decease of Re- 
latives—St John's College . . . . . .11 



Entrance upon Public Life— Election at Hull— Mr. Pitt— Journey 
to France — Political Excitements — Yisits Yorkshire— Chosen to 
represent that County . . . * , . .24 



A continental Tour — Isaac Milner— ^Doddridge's Rise and Progress 
— Return to London — Religious Impressions — Rev. John Newton 
— Encouragement — Letter to his Sister . . . .37 



Improvement of Time— Mental Peculiarities— Religious Conflicts 
—Letters ........ 53 





The royal Proclamation— Society for the Suppression of Immoral- 
ity — Labors of Mr. Wilberforce — Travels — Hannah More — Letter 
to his Mother . . . . . . . .66 



Efforts for the Abolition of the Slave-Trade— Granville Sharpe— 
Clarkson — Eev. James Eamsay — Lacly Middleton — A Public 
Leader necessary — Interest of Mr. "Wilberforce in the Subject — 
Illness — Eetirement to Bath— Kecovery — Abolition Bill brought 
before the House of Commons . . . . . T3 



Visit to Cowslip Green — Cheddar — Sabbath and Day-schools — Ee- 
turn to London — Slave Business — Yoxall Lodge— Friendship — 
Rev. T. Gisborne — Thomas Babington — Death of Mr. Thornton . 91 



rhe Abolition Bill resumed — Encouragement — Letter from John 
Wesley — Defeat — Sierra Leone— Studies — Difficulties — Threats 
of Violence — Kimber — Letter to Lord Muncaster . . . 105 



douse at Clapham— Eeligious Progress— Social Habits— Abolition 
— War with France— Christianity in the East — Disappointment- 
Missions ......... 120 





Lafayette — Olmutz— Effort for his Release— Gradual Abolition- 
Newspaper Calumnies — Publication of " Practical View of Chris- 
tianity" — Leigh Richmond — Edmund Burke . . . 134 



Marriage — Cowslip Green — Death of Rev. Dr. Clarke — Visit to 
Hull— Letters — James Stephen . . . . 152 



Abolition Bill — French Revolution — Infidel Philosophy — Care of 
Relatives — Liberality — Change in the Administration — Magnan- 
imity — Journal — A penitent Criminal — Humility . . . 162 



The Abolition Bill — Encouragement — Death of Mr. Pitt — Letters 
—Death of Mr. Fox— Pamphlet on the Slave-Trade— Passage of 
tlie Bill — Congratulations . . . . . . 184 



A contested Election— The Sabbath— Bible Society— Prospect of 
an American War— Death of the Prime-Minister . . .198 



Children— Education— Love-T Watchfulness— Letter to a Daughter 
— A Sick-bed — Letters — Advice on leaving Home — A Summer 
Journey— Death of a Daughter— Letters .... 21T 





Retires from the Representation of Yorkshire — Returned for 
Bramber— Journal — Christianity in India — Illness — Government 
Arrangements — Success in the House — Missions to the East — 
Andrew Fuller and the Duellist ..... 243 



Efforts for General Abolition— Treaty of Peace — Dissatisfaction — 
Restoration of Bonaparte — Abolition in France — State of West 
Indian Slaves — Bill of Registry — Opposition — Death of H. Thorn- 
ton — J. Bowdler — Corn-Laws — Sabbath at Taplow — A Coinci- 
dence—Death of Mrs. Stephen — Holy Love — Yisit to a sick 
Person . . . 258 



Christophe— Interest in Hayti — Spring of Abolition Efforts— In- 
creased Labors— Death of Christophe . . . . 279 



Efforts for "West Indian Slaves— Subject brought into Parliament — 
T. F. Buxton— Illness — Retirement ..... 288 



Highwcod— Reminiscences of Past Days— Sketch of J. J. Gurney — 
Chapel Building— Pecuniary Losses— Sir James Mackintosh — 
Death of a Daughter—Removal — Increased Love of Retirement 
—Last Appearance in Public— Abolition- -Decline of Strength- 
Bath — London— Gradual Decay— Death .... 300 

(&ix\i fife. 

At tlie grammar-school in Hull, many 
years ago, a bright-looking boy used to be 
called upon by the teacher to read aloud to 
his companions. His seat was wont to be 
upon the table. The best reader in the 
school, the boys were accustomed to listen 
with pleasure to the clear tones of his silvery 
voice, which had power to charm them into 
unbroken attention. His elevated seat was 
provided on account of his extreme littleness, 
being at the time of which we speak only 
seven years old, and very slight and delicate 
even for that age. 

Years passed away. The beloved pupil 
of the grammar-school grew to be a man, 
and instead of the hushed school-room, there 


was the parliamentary hall ; instead of the 
earnest faces of the boys, there were the 
statesmen of England, and, even as the boys 
of old, would the members of the House of 
Commons hang with delight upon his words 
of eloquence and power. It was William 


His life, in its earlier and later days, we 
propose to sketch. 

He was born at Hull, on the twenty-fourth 
day of August, 1759. His father was a mer- 
chant of that place. Of three sisters, two 
died in early life, the second only living to 
grow up. The talents so early shown by 
little William were adorned by a most lovely 
and loving disposition. Thoughtful of the 
wants of others, one person, often a visitor 
at his mother's and an invalid, tells us that 
the gentle and pleasant boy, who used to 
take off his shoes at the door of the sick 
chamber, lest he should make a noise in 
crossing the room, is well remembered. How 
gently, too, he would put aside the curtains, 


and with anxious face ask, " if I was hetter, 
I shall never forget." 

When William was nine years old, his 
father died, and he was sent to live with his 
uncle, whose name he bore. The residence 
of this gentleman was in a pleasant mansion 
at Wimbledon, near London. 

Soon after this, the future statesman was 

put to a boarding-school, of which little is 

recorded save that the master wore a long, 

red beard, and the food given to the boys 

was very unfit to be eaten. The advantages 

bestowed upon children at that time, more 

than eighty years ago, are by no means to 

be measured by those enjoyed at present. 

Though the friends of young Wilberforce 

were wealthy, he seems at this time to have 

enjoyed but little in the way of acquiring 

knowledge. He was, however, regarded with 

much kindness and love. An instance of this 

we find recorded. His aunt with whom he 

now lived had a brother, whose name is 

still well known in the records of piety — 



John Thornton. This gentleman sent on 
one occasion to the favorite of his sister a 
present of some money. There was more 
than a boy of his age could want to spend, 
and Mr. Thornton, in giving it, had intimated 
that a part of it was for the poor. After- 
ward, when the name of Wilberforce had 
become famous as a great and good man, 
and a most generous-hearted Christian, he 
remembered the gift of Mr. Thornton with 
pleasure, not for the money which he had 
laid out for himself, but because he had by 
this been taught to " remember the poor." 

Up to his ninth year, no peculiar care 
seems to have been taken to instruct him in 
religion. When, however, he came to live 
with his uncle, this want of his education 
existed no longer. His aunt, the sister of 
the excellent John Thornton, by the warmth 
of her religious zeal made up for the previous 

Great kindness \?as lavished by her upon 
the pleasant child who had been committed 


to her care and dwelt beneath her roof. The 
namesake of his uncle and his presumptive 
heir, he appears to have been regarded by 
these relatives as their own. 

The celebrated Whitefield, though near 
the close of his career, was, at the time of 
which we speak, preaching in London and in 
other parts of England. Immense crowds 
still followed him. Mrs. Wilberforce loved 
the ministry of Whitefield. She had also 
many friends among his followers, who were 
her occasional guests. It pleased her well, 
no doubt, that her active and affectionate 
young nephew became strongly attached to 
religious society. It is recorded of him that 
"a rare and pleasing character of piety 
marked his twelfth year/' 

But his friends at Hull were by no means 
pleased with this new influence. His mother 
repaired to London, and, removing him from 
his uncle's house, he saw no more of his 
aunt's religious friends. Of his uncle and 
aunt, he says, " I deeply felt the parting, for 


I loved them as parents ; indeed I was almost 
heart-broken at the separation/' To his 
uncle he wrote, " I can never forget you as 
long as I live/' 

Being removed to his mother's house, he 
was soon surrounded by young companions, 
who introduced him to places of public 
amusement. At first he held back— these 
pleasures were by no means to his taste: — 
the contrast was too painful with the more 
staid and quiet domestic scenes of his Wim- 
bledon home. When first taken to the the- 
ater it was much against his will. In a 
manuscript written by himself in later years, 
he speaks of this period of his life, and 
of the social influences of his native town. 
"It was then as gay a place as could be 
found out of London. The theater, balls, 
great suppers, and card parties were the 
delight of the principal families in the town. 
The usual dinner hour was two o'clock, and 
at six they met at sumptuous suppers. This 
mode of life was at first distressing to me ; 


but by degrees I acquired a relish for it, 
and became as thoughtless as the rest. As 
grandson to one of the principal inhabitants, 
I was every where invited and caressed/' 

He appeared at this time to those about 
him a lovely and promising youth. Intelli- 
gent far beyond his years, gentle, refined in 
his thoughts and expressions, full of spirits 
and a flow of wit which, however sharply 
pointed it might be, was never unkind. 

To these social qualities he added an 
enthusiastic taste for music, and a voice 
and style of singing which made him much 
sought after by the pleasure-loving youth 
of Hull. In after years, when he had 
become an inhabitant of London, the Prince 
of Wales expressed his admiration of this 
gift. " We must have you again/' writes a 
friend ; " the Prince says he will come any 
time to hear you sing/' 

From the time of his return to Hull, all 
through his years of early life, was young 
Wilberforce the favorite of society. Much, 


in those years when the character is forming, 
and time is precious, and knowledge must he 
acquired, was wasted in a round of visits. 
Of the effect of this he has himself told us. 
His religious impressions disappeared, and he 
became as fond of gayety as his companions. 

Alas, for the ingenuous boy, whose heart 
had so glowed with sympathetic joy when in 
the company of the pious, and about whose 
future way such holy hopes had clustered ! 

Yet amid all these temptations his 
heavenly Father had still a care over him. 
Though a lover of pleasure, he was kept from 
falling into vice ; and notwithstanding the 
dissipations of Hull, the gayeties of his 
home, the laxity of school discipline, he still 
loved his books, and excelled his companions 
in scholarship. 

By the death of his grandfather, young 
Wilberforce came into the possession of an 
independent fortune. By the decease of his 
uncle, this was still further increased. De- 
prived thus of his nearest male relatives, he 


became at an early age his own master, with 
a larger income than he could spend, his 
mother being his sole guardian. Under 
these circumstances he became a member 
of St. John's College, Cambridge. On first 
entering here he encountered a set of worth- 
less and vicious companions. " They drank 
hard/' he says of them, " and their conver- 
sation was even worse than their lives." 
From evil in so gross and disgusting a form 
his mind recoiled. After a period he shook 
them off, and found companions of higher 
character and more intellectual pursuits. 
Among this selecter circle was one — the 
Kev. Thomas Grisborne— with whom friend- 
ship was continued in after life, and who 
has given some recollection of college days. 
"There was no one/' says he, "at all like 
him (Wilberforce) for powers of entertain- 
ment. Always fond of repartee and discuss- 
ion, he seemed entirely free from conceit 
and vanity/' The hospitality that marked 
his after life may have had its beginning 


in college. u There was/' says the same, 
" always a great Yorkshire pie in his rooms, 
of which all were welcome to partake. My 
rooms and his were back to back, and often 
when I was raking ont my fire at ten o'clock, 
I heard his melodious voice calling out to 
me to come and sit with him before I went 
to bed/' 

Still in after life he was accustomed to 
regret his wasted years. Speaking of the 
Fellows of the college, with whom he was 
wont to associate a great deal, he speaks 
with strong disapproval of the part they 
acted toward him. "Why in the world/' 
they would say, u should a man of your 
fortune trouble himself with fagging ?" 
Again he says : " While my companions were 
reading hard and studying, card parties and 
amusements consumed my time. The tutors 
would often say in my hearing that Q ihey 
were mere saps ; that I did all by talent/ " 
Well might he add, on recurring to this 


period of his life, "This was poison to a 
mind constituted like mine/' 

Though much time was thus dissipated, 
his love of siudy was not wholly lost. Surely 
God watched over him, or he would have 
been swallowed up by these influences so 
adverse to good. But though with persons 
on all sides to flatter and lead astray, he was 
mercifully kept from ruin. In after years, 
when he had learned that for wasted hours 
we must give account to God, he strove 
diligently to make up for this loss by study, 
by method, by strict, persevering effort. He 
became a great as well as a good man. He 
won a name that will not die ; and still as 
mankind grow better shall his fame brighten 
and increase. His history has this pecu- 
liarity, that for greatness as well as goodness 
he is indebted to religious principles received 
into the heart and governing the life. That 
unceasing toil that marked his public life 
and led him on to efforts for human weal, 
eventuating in splendor and success, could 


have been inspired in a mind like his, only 
by the love of G-od and the desire to please 
him. What else could have given oneness 
of effort and aim to a mind which, gifted 
indeed with extraordinary powers, had yet, 
along with the strength of genius, its weak- 
ness too ? Yes, but for this great principle 
moving upon his mind and heart, and con- 
centrating all. its powers in a perfect bond, 
the world would never have hailed his name 
as one of the benefactors of his race ; his 
voice would never have been so perseveringly 
lifted for the oppressed ; the orator of the 
British Parliament might have been feasted 
with transient fame, and then have sunk 
into his grave to be forgotten. The great 
and gay world stood ready to absorb his 
existence ; his playful fancy and pointed wit 
made him the life of the festal scene ; his 
mind, as the . sunbeam of summer on the 
glancing wave, was ever on the wing in quest 
of new scenes and new pleasures. 

The great principle of duty to God, of 


serving him by blessing his creatures, could 
alone have given so elevated, so sublime a 
direction to those powers, so brilliant yet so 
volatile, so much in danger of being enlisted 
in the service of folly. 

The Almighty had assigned him a work, 
and in his own time called him to its per- 


I «mgtstiff«« in f flnfofltu 

While still at college, Wilberforce had 
resolved to enter upon public life. His 
active mind sought an object for the employ- 
ment of its powers which he could not find 
in that round of pleasure which his ample 
fortune, his lively temper and fascinating 
social powers opened before him. "I was/' 
he says of himself, "at that time very 
ambitious." Moreover he had, while at 
college, formed an acquaintance with the 
younger son of Lord Chatham, afterward 
the sharer of his father's fame, the celebrated 
William Pitt. That this acquaintance had 
influenced his choice we are not sure ; certain 
it is, however, that the two were afterward 
linked in the closest bonds of friendship. 


Wilberforce was chosen a representative 
for his native town, as early as 1780. The 
war of the American Eevolution had not 
yet closed, and, following in the steps of the 
great Earl of Chatham, he took his place 
in parliament as an opponent of the policy 
which had dictated the war. Mr. Pitt came 
rapidly into power. His unmatched abilities 
were recognized by his sovereign, and at 
twenty-four he became the prime-minister 
of George the Third. 

These two young statesmen, destined to 
wield, in different ways, so important an 
influence in the counsels of the nation, seem 
to have regarded each other with the affec- 
tion of brothers. Wilberforce says of his 
friend Pitt, " He was the wittiest man I ever 
knew, and, what was quite peculiar to him- 
self, had at all times his wit under entire 
control. Every possible combination of ideas 
seemed always present to his mind, and he 
could at all times produce whatever he 




In London, as at Hull and Cambridge, 
Wilberforce was the favorite, and had nearly 
been the victim of -"society." "I belonged 
at this time," he says, " to five clubs. Noth- 
ing could be more luxurious than the style 
of these. Fox, Sheridan, Fitzpatrick, and 
all your leading men frequented them, and 
associated upon the easiest terms ; you chat- 
ted, played at cards, or gambled as you 4 
pleased !" 

Among these associations, there was one 
which was preferred to all the rest, as a 
resort. This was " on the premises of a man 
named Groosetree." It consisted of only 
twenty-five members, most of whom were 
young men who had passed through the 
university together, and had also entered 
upon public life. " We played a good deal 
at Goosetree's," writes Wilberforce. He 
then records the eagerness with which his 
friend Pitt entered into the amusements 
of the gaming-table, and his sudden aban- 
donment of them. The clear, strong glance 


of the great statesman revealed to himself 
the danger that lurked beneath these excite- 
ments, and, spurning the fetters which were 
fit only for weaker minds, he threw them 
aside for ever. 

With this same vice Wilberforce was very 
nearly insnared. He quitted the practice 
for a reason which well illustrates the gentle 
spirit which through life, in boyhood, in 
manhood, and even to old age, made him 
so beloved. Having on one occasion risen 
from the table, the winner of several hundred 
pounds, he was so much troubled at the 
thought of the losers, of their disappoint- 
ment and chagrin, that his success gave 
him no pleasure. The pain he felt on their 
account went far to cure him of a habit at 
once so debasing and ruinous. 

Notwithstanding his gayety and love of 
pleasure, Mr. Wilberforce was from the first 
a close attendant to business, and esteemed 
an active member of Parliament. He did 
not at once become a speaker. " Attend to 


business/' he said in later life, to a friend 
about to enter the House of Commons, " and 
do not seek occasions for display ; if you have 
a turn for speaking, the proper time will 

His first speech was on the 17th of May, 
1781, in behalf of his native town, from 
which he presented a petition. He then 
forcibly attacked the laws of revenue, as 
they existed, as oppressive and unjust. 

His leisure during the recess of Parlia- 
ment was spent in the country. Passionately 
attached to the beauties of nature, possessing 
that taste which finds delight among woods 
and winding streams, he rented a house on 
the banks of the Windermere, and amid this 
pleasant scenery, with " a goodly assortment 
of books/' he was wont to seek for happiness 
in the intervals of business. Eetirement 
with him, however, was not solitude. Be- 
side his mother and sister, to whom he was 
tenderly attached, his intimate friends often 
took up their abode under his roof. 


His uncle's house at Wimbledon, where 
he had passed so happy a portion of his 
childhood, was also now his own, and he had, 
by a trifling alteration, eight or nine bed- 
rooms to spare to his friends. So close an 
intimacy now subsisted between " Pitt and 
his friend Wilberforce," that the former 
appears to have taken quarters at Wim- 
bledon whenever he chose, making himself 
equally at home in the presence and absence 
of its master. 

"Eliot, Arden and I," writes Pitt one 
summer afternoon, " will be with you before 
curfew, and expect an early meal of peas and 

This point of time, with all its varied ob- 
jects of interest, was a most critical one in 
the life of Wilberforce. His manners so sure 
to please, his peculiar and sparkling wit, his 
buoyant and kindly spirit, won for him such 
a share of applause as is seldom borne with- 
out injury. Many, alas ! with far less tempt- 


ation, have stumbled upon dark mountains, 
and have fallen to rise no more. 

Prone to exercise a most diverting talent 
for mimicry, but for the "kindly severity" of 
an elderly friend, (Lord Camden,) he might 
have valued too highly this power, by the ex- 
ercise of which he was wont to " set the table 
in a roar." " 'Tis but a vulgar accomplish- 
ment," said the old lord slightingly, when 
solicited to witness its display. The remark 
met the ear of Wilberforce, and his better 
judgment told him that it was true. 

To the allurements of pleasure were added 
those of ambition. Of the supreme power of 
this latter over the minds of many in public 
life, we have an illustration in the club of the 
"Independents." It consisted of members 
of the House of Commons, forty in number, 
of which Wilberforce was one. The bond 
that held them together was the formal re- 
solve, to accept of neither "place, pension, 
nor peerage." After a lapse of years, so far 
had time and circumstances moderated the 


heroism of their independence, that Mr. Wil- 
berforce and one other, Mr. Bankes, alone re- 
tained their original station. Of the county 
members Wilberforce was the only one who 
was not raised to the peerage. The attain- 
ment of a title was to him not without its 
charms, and he had come into public life 
under most favorable circumstances. His 
own personal qualities, and the friendship of 
the foremost man in the nation, seemed to 
open to him a brilliant career. So prevalent 
at one time was the opinion that he was to 
be raised to the upper House, that he re- 
ceived various applications for the supply of 
his robes for that occasion. But his position 
was an independent one, and neither to am- 
bition nor friendship would he unreservedly 
yield its advantage. " I well remember/' he 
says long after, "the pain I felt in being 
obliged to vote against Pitt, the second time 
he spoke in Parliament." The wish for a 
name among the titled nobility of the land 
was in the end supplanted by the prevalence 


of that sacred principle, which reveals "a 
better country/' and makes the honors of this 
world grow little indeed by contrast. The 
mingled good sense and piety with which he 
writes on this subject, in his maturer years, 
is beyond all praise. 

About this time (1783) we find Pitt, Wil- 
berforce, and another friend, (Eliot,) making 
a journey into France, where they met with 
divers adventures. At Paris they became 
acquainted with La Fayette. They were by 
him presented to Doctor Franklin, who cor- 
dially greeted Mr. Wilberforce, as " a rising 
member of the House of Parliament, who had 
opposed the war with America." 

From these scenes of pleasure and interest 
a special messenger recalled Mr. Pitt to Lon- 
don, and Wilberforce followed him about six 
weeks later. The month immediately fol- 
lowing was a period of great political commo- 

A strong opposition to the measures of the 
government existed in the House of Com- 


mons. Mr. Fox, aided by his friend Lord 
North, opposed Mr. Pitt, who was now the 
Premier of the realm. Illustrious for talent, 
eloquence, and noble birth, the opposition 
looked with scorn upon the youth of twenty- 
four, who dared to take the political field 
against them. This trial made manifest to 
all, the unequaled powers of the prime min- 
ister. Undismayed he upheld the govern- 
ment, and, by the strength of his own mighty 
mind, swayed the conflicting wills of others. 
Of the private counsels as well as the public 
labors of this great statesman, Wilberforce 
was the sharer. But the onward course of 
events was such, that his power to uphold 
the administration of Pitt was soon to receive 
a ten-fold increase. 

Yorkshire, the largest county in England, 
with regard to the question at issue had not 
yet declared itself. In this country were situ- 
ated the landed estates of Wilberforce. He 
had however no residence there, and was per- 
sonally unknown. Thither he repaired, to 


sustain the cause of the government to which 
he had committed himself, and of which his 
friend was the leader. 

At an immense gathering in the castle 
yard in the city of York, Wilberforce was 
present. Addresses had been listened to 
from speakers on both sides, the day was 
" cold and hail falling/' the people weary and 
about to separate. Under these unfavorable 
circumstances he addressed the assemblage. 
Touched by the charms of his eloquence, the 
people were held for more than an hour, not- 
withstanding cold and storm and weariness. 
The beauty and grace of his oratory were ir- 
resistible. While serving the cause which he 
had espoused, he won hearts for himself, and 
before he had ceased to speak, the words 
were whispered in the crowd, "We'll have 
this man for our county member !" 

That in his young aspirations he had en- 
tertained this very idea, he himself has in- 
formed us. Aware, however, that it might 


be deemed the madness of ambition, he had 
never mentioned it. Perhaps he was as 
much surprised at his success as were his 
friends. Congratulations poured in upon 
him. " Danby tells me," writes one, " that 
you spoke like an angel." 

The whole was the more remarkable on ac- 
count of his youth, and the circumstance of 
his having no influential friends in the 
county. He found himself, on the strength 
of his personal qualities, the force of talent 
and eloquence, and honest devotion to the 
public service, chosen by the people to the 
important position of a representative of " a 
tenth of England." The opposition party of 
the House of Commons was overcome. The 
supporters of the administration, the friends 
of Pitt, had triumphed on every side. Wilber- 
force saw his friend strong in the heart of the 
nation, as well as in the House of Parliament. 

And now on the very top wave of earthly 
glory we see these two noble and gifted 


youth, with all that the world can give of 
honor and pleasure soliciting their accept- 
ance. But " it is not all of life to live/' and 
in a future chapter we will unfold events of 
deeper and sublimer interest. 


Very soon after the stirring events just 
detailed, we find Mr. Wilberforce about to 
set out on a second Continental tour. His 
companions were his mother and sister, and 
two young cousins, who were invalids. He 
speaks of the latter as "very good girls, 
whose health we hope to reestablish by a 
change of air." 

He was accompanied also by his friend 
Isaac Milner, at that time a tutor at Cam- 
bridge. The ladies occupied one carriage, 
and in another rode Wilberforce and Milner. 
The latter held religious views of a far morfe 
decided character than he was wont to mani- 
fest. Like many others, this Cambridge 
tutor seems to have had the habit of hiding 


away his most solemn perceptions of divine 
truth, so that when on one occasion they 
came to be decidedly expressed, Wilberforce 
was taken by surprise. Had he been aware 
of the religious character of Milner, so far 
was he from any desire for such intercourse, 
that he himself afterward declared, he 
should never have chosen his company in 
these travels. 

Eeligious topics, however, once introduced, 
were frequently discussed by the two. In 
argument Wilberforce would sometimes get 
the better of the other. "While Milner 
treated the subject with becoming reverence, 
his more lively companion would use his own 
peculiar power of quick and apt reply, to set 
aside the arguments that were brought for- 
ward. "I am no match for you, Wilber- 
force, in this running fire," Milner would re- 
ply ; "but if you really wish to discuss these 
subjects seidous]y, I will gladly enter upon 
them with you." 

They traveled into Italy, and having halt- 


ed for a time at the ancient town of Nice, 
were about to turn their steps homeward. 

M "What sort of a book is this ?" said Wil- 
berforce, as he casually took up a small vol- 
ume, belonging to one of their fellow trav- 

"It is one of the best books ever written/' 
replied Milner ; " let us take it with us, and 
read it on our journey/' 

This book was no other than Doddridge on 
the "Eise and Progress of Eeligion in the 

Life is like a panorama, and its scenes are 
continually shifting. The gay young mem- 
ber of the club at Goosetree's, the orator 
whose subduing eloquence had so won the 
hearts of men under the shadow of the York 
Minster, the child of pleasure and ambition, 
is now seated in a traveling coach with his 
honest friend Milner, and together they are 
considering the great problem of man's apos- 
tasy from God, and the deeper mystery of 
his return. They read " of sin, of righteous- 


ness, of judgment/' of the blessedness of 
communion with God, of the gift of eternal 
life through Jesus Christ. Thoughtlessness 
is for the time banished, and raillery is dumb, 
and wit has laid aside her archery. The re- 
sult of this reading was, that Wilberforce de- 
termined to examine the scriptures for him- 

The journey homeward was made with 
Milner alone. The ladies of the . party were 
left behind to enjoy the soft airs of Italy, 
while political movements recalled the repre- 
sentative of Yorkshire to London. 

The journey was not without its adven- 
tures. Leaving the sunny regions of South- 
ern Europe behind them, they crossed the 
mountains amid the snows of winter. Hav- 
ing, on one occasion, climbed a steep and 
frozen road, the weight of the carriage over- 
powered the horses. They were only saved 
from plunging over a frightful precipice, by 
the great strength of Milner, who happened 
to be on foot in the rear of the carriage. 


"February 22d they reached London, and 
Wilberforce records in his journal, " Took up 
my quarters at Pitt's/' Here he again be- 
came immersed in politics and society. The 
truths, in the study of which he had been en- 
gaged, had convinced his understanding, but 
had not yet power to induce the consecration 
of the soul to God. His former thoughtless- 
ness had however been interrupted, and oc- 
casional traces of serious reflection may be 
gleaned from the journals of this winter. 

The session of Parliament, though expect- 
ed to terminate in May, lasted till the end 
of June. At the end of that time Wilber- 
force again started to meet the former party 
at Genoa, and again Milner was his com- 
panion. The Greek Testament was now the 
book they were wont to read together, ex- 
amining carefully the doctrines contained 
within its pages. So interesting had these 
topics now become, that the ladies of the 
party complained of Wilberforce that he so 

seldom visited their carriage. His com- 



panions little knew what was passing in his 
mind. His outward manner and appearance 
were not changed, but the great truths that 
had been impressed upon his mind had be- 
gun to take possession of his soul. He says 
of himself, " I had received into my under- 
standing the great truths of the gospel, and 
believed that its offers were free and univer- 
sal ; and that God had promised to give the 
Holy Spirit to them that ask for it." To this 
he adds a most important clause, which, from 
the nature of his habits and associates, pos- 
sesses an added interest : " I now began to 
pray earnestly. 39 

Again he says, "As soon as I began to 
reflect on these subjects, the deep guilt and 
black ingratitude of my past life forced itself 
upon me in the strongest colors, and I con- 
demned myself for having wasted my precious 
time, opportunities and talents." 

In this state he returned home. An inter- 
val of three months before the assembling of 
Parliament gave him time for retirement and 


meditation. This period he spent at Wim- 
bledon. His impressions were thus deep- 
ened. "It was not so much," he writes, 
"the fear of punishment by which I was 
affected, as a sense of my great sinfulness in 
having so long neglected the unspeakable 
mercies of my Grod and Saviour ; and such 
was the effect which this thought produced, 
that for months I was in a state of the deep- 
est depression from strong convictions of my 
guilt. Indeed nothing which I have ever 
read, in the accounts of others, exceeded 
what I then felt." 

In a journal which he commenced about 
this time, we find the following, which 
reveals the dawning of Christian hope. 

November 28, 1785 : " I hope as long as I 
live to be the better for the meditation of 
this evening. It was on the sinfulness of my 
heart, its blindness and weakness. True, 
Lord, I am wretched and miserable and blind 
and naked. What infinite love, that Christ 
should die to save such a sinner, and how 


necessary is it that He should save us alto- 
gether, that we may appear before God with 
nothing of our own ! God grant that I may 
not deceive myself in thinking I feel the 
beginnings of Gospel comfort." 

To this, so full of self-renunciation and 
that poverty of spirit to which the Saviour 
has annexed his blessing, the journal adds : 
"Began this night constant family prayer, 
and resolved to have it morning and evening, 
and to read a chapter when time/' 

With a simplicity of spirit peculiarly his 
own, he adds, two days after : " Forgot to 
set down that when my servants came in the 
first time to family prayer, I felt ashamed." 

He now began to feel the need of counsel. 
Hitherto the change in the inner man had 
been wrought in solitude, by the study of the 
Bible, by secret seeking after God. He now 
looked for converse with some other Chris- 
tian. Sympathy he must have — to some 
other heart he must make known that which 


so stirred the depths of his own. Not that 
his feelings had been wholly concealed. 
From his retreat he had written to some 
of his boon companions of his altered views 
of life. Especially did he feel that he owed 
this to his friend Pitt, and accordingly wrote 
to him fully of his changed views of spiritual 
subjects, and of the bearing of his religious 
principles upon political life. 

This was frankly and nobly done. The 
manner in which it was received by the 
prime- minister had the effect to endear him 
still more to his friend. What so touches 
the sensitive heart of the young Christian as 
when to the story of the soul's new life his 
bosom friend listens with kindness, with 
respect, yet without sharing in its emotions ? 
Such, in the retirement of Wimbledon, was 
the interview of Pitt and Wilberforce. "I 
had prayed," says the latter, as he records 
the interview, "to Grod, I hope with some 
sincerity, not to lead me into disputing for 
my own exaltation, but for his glory. Con- 


versed with Pitt near two hours, and opened 
myself completely to him/' 

Much as Wilberforce felt at this crisis of 
his being in need of counsel and assistance, 
he shrunk for a time from seeking it. He at 
last made choice of one whose name is still 
as a household word among the followers of 
Christ. The Eev. John Newton was at this 
time pastor of St. Mary Wooinooth, in Lon- 
don. Singularly strong in his perceptions of 
religious truth, his modes of illustrating it 
had the quaintness and piquancy that spring 
from an active fancy, chastened and purified 
by a life of faith and heavenly love. He was 
now advanced in life, and knew perhaps 
better than any man living the trials and 
dangers of the soul, in its efforts to return to 
God. To him Wilberforce repaired, opening 
the way by a few lines. 

"December 2, 1785. 
"To the Ret. John Newton: 

u Sir, — There is no need of apology foi 

intruding on you, when the errand is religion 


I wish to have some serious conversation with 
you, and will take the liberty of calling on 
you in half an hour ; when, if you can not 
receive me, you will have the goodness to let 
me have a letter put into my hands at the 
door, naming a time and place for our meet- 
ing — the earlier the more agreeable to me. 
I have had ten thousand doubts whether I 
should reveal myself to you, but every argu- 
ment against doing it has its foundation in 
pride. I am sure you will hold yourself bound 
to let no man living know of this applica- 
tion till I release you from the obligation." 

This was written on Friday, and by him- 
self handed to Mr. Newton at church the 
following Sunday. The next Wednesday 
was named for an interview. He repaired, at 
the time appointed, to the house of the pas- 
tor. But it is not always an easy matter to 
open the soul's most sacred and hidden 
thoughts to the eye of another, and it was 
with an agitated spirit that he proceeded. 


" Once or twice" he made the circuit of the 
square before, as he says, " I could persuade 
myself." The effect of the interview was 
most happy. "When I came away/' he 
writes, U I found my mind in a calm, tian- 
quil state, more humbled, and looking up 
more devoutly to God." 

It is worthy of remark that in this conver- 
sation Mr. Newton mentioned the name of 
John Thornton. He it was who so long 
before had taught his young kinsman to 
" remember the poor," and he had so spoken 
of him to Mr. Newton as to awaken in the 
warm heart of the minister of the Gospel a 
hope that the gifts of Wilberforce might yet 
be consecrated to the service of Christ. Had 
not the pious and excellent Thornton even 
until now remembered before God in prayer 
the endeared child who at twelve years old 
had given such promise of piety ? Might 
not these prayers have been as a shield, 
invisible and yet real, amid subsequent 
scene^of danger and seduction ? 


Mr. Wilberforce had now made known his 
position, and was strengthened by this act. 
Yet were the early days of his Christian life 
marked by fluctuation and struggle. It had 
been a part of Mr. Newton's advice that he 
should not make sudden changes with regard 
to society at large, nor " widely separate from 
former friends/' On this he acted, with those 
limitations which obviously suggested them- 
selves. The club missed a favorite member. 
The admirer of Mrs. Siddons was seen no 
more at the play. From the claims of friend- 
ship, the demands incident to a public life, 
he did not withdraw. 

We recur to his journal : 

"Went as I had promised to Pitt's — sad 
work. I went there in fear, and for some 
time kept an awe on my mind. My feelings 
lessened in the evening, and I could scarce 
lift up myself in prayer to G-od at night." 

Again, after another visit * " My mind in a 

sad state this evening — could scarcely pray 5 

but will hope and wait on God." 



Even amid these scenes, however, he now 
begins to look upon things in a more sober 
light. He says in his journal : " At the 
levee, and then dined at Pitt's — sort of cabi- 
net dinner. Was often thinking that pom- 
pous Thurlow, and elegant Carmarthen, 
would soon appear in the same row with the 
poor fellow who waited behind their chairs." 

" December 12th. More fervent, I hope, in 
prayer. Eesolved more in God's strength, there- 
fore, I hope, likely to keep my resolutions." 

" 13th. I hope I feel more need of Divine 
assistance. May I be enabled to submit to it 
in distrust of myself. I do not know what to 
make of myself, but I resolve under God to 
go on. Much struck with Mr. Newton's nar- 
rative, where he says he once persevered for 
two years and went back again. Oh, may I 
be preserved from relapse ! And yet, if I 
can not stand it now, what shall I do when 
the struggle comes on in earnest ? I am too 
intent upon shining in company, %nd must 
curb myself here." 


Amid the record of struggles and depress- 
ions, brighter days are beginning to dawn. 

December 20th he writes : " More enlarged 
and sincere in prayer. Went to hear Ro- 
maine. Dined at the Adelphi ; both before 
and after was much affected by seriousness. 
Went to hear Forster, who was very good ; 
enabled to join in the prayers with my whole 
heart, and never so happy in my life as this 
whole evening— enlarged in private prayer, 
and have a good hope toward G-od. Got up 
Wednesday morning in the same frame of 
mind, and filled with peace and hope and 
humility, yet some doubt if all this is real or 
will be lasting. — Newton's church — he has 
my leave to mention my case to my aunt, 
and Mr. Thornton. I trust Grod is with me, 
but he must ever keep beside me ; for I fall 
the moment I am left to myself. I stayed in 
town to attend the ordinances, and have been 
gloriously blest in them." 

Soon after he receives an affectionate note 
from Mr. Thornton. This excellent Christian 


friend invites Mr. Wilberforce to his house, 
for the enjoyment of retired life and Chris- 
tian sympathy. This latter was just what at 
this time he most needed, and this under the 
roof of his friend he found. He now speaks 
of the promises and grace of Christ, and very 
soon we find him endeavoring to induce his 
beloved and only sister to share in his new- 
found happiness. After a Sabbath spent at 
Stoke with Mr. Unwin, he writes : 

" Can my dear sister wonder that I call on 
her to participate in the pleasure I am tast- 
ing ? I know how you sympathize in the 
happiness of those you love, and I could not 
therefore forgive myself were I to keep my 
raptures to myself, and not invite you to par- 
take of my enjoyment. * * * * May 
every Sabbath be to me, and to those I love, 
a renewal of these feelings, of which the 
small tastes we have in this life should make 
us look forward to that eternal rest which re- 
mains for the people of God/' 


filial anfo JfrstKttsI f #*#* 

He who wastes time can not be preparing 
for eternity. When Mr. Wilberforce looked 
back on the follies of his earlier years, his 
throngs of gay friends who had helped him 
to waste so many precious hours, he was 
filled with regret. This showed itself, not in 
idle repinings, but in a systematic endeavor 
to redeem the time. To accomplish this, he 
formed a system for the disposition of those 
hours which were at his command. His 
biographer thus mentions this period of his 
life : u Various and accurate were now his 
studies ; but the book which he most care- 
fully studied, and by which perhaps above 
all others his mental faculties were perfected, 
was the holy scripture. This he read and 


weighed and pondered over, studying its 
connection and details, and mastering espe- 
cially, in their own tongue, the apostolical 
epistles. This was his chief occupation at 
Wilford. It was now his daily care to 
instruct his understanding and discipline his 

These plans so diligently and perseveringly 
pursued were thwarted by one obstacle by 
which many would have been discouraged. 
We refer to a constitutional weakness of the 
eyes, which followed him through life, occa- 
sioning great inconvenience, and often com- 
pelling him to lay aside both book and 

Poorly adapted indeed were the habits of 
gayety in which up to his twenty-fifth year 
he had indulged, for increasing the power of 
thought, or of duly regulating it. Always 
rapid in his movements, his mind possessed a 
singular power of turning itself with electric 
swiftness from one brilliant train of thought 
to another, and again unexpectedly branching 


forth in a flow of new ideas of an entirely- 
opposite character. His faculty of diffusing 
such a glow of social life over the festive 
scenes he had so adorned added not a little 
to his powers of entertainment. But it is 
easily seen that the excess of this destroyed 
the power of serious thought. When the 
love of G-od and the desire of pleasing and 
serving him found place in the soul, we find 
that the Christian mourned in secret that 
his thoughts were so clothed with wings as 
to be incapable of fixing themselves even in 
the most solemn services. The conflicts of 
this period are revealed in his journals. 

July 30, 1786, he says: "At church I 
wander more than ever, and can'scarce keep 
awake — my thoughts are always straying. 
Do thou, God, set my affections on purer 
pleasures. Every night I have to look back 
upon a day misemployed, or not improved 
with fervency and diligence. Grod, do 
thou enable me to live more to thee, to 
look to Jesus with a single eye, and by 


degrees to have the new nature implanted 
in me, and the heart of stone removed. The 
sense of God's presence seldom stays on 
my mind when I am in company, and at 
times I even have doubts and difficulties 
about the truth of the great doctrines of 

The piety to which in lat^r days he 
attained, the fixedness of the soul upon 
heavenly things, strangely enough contrasts 
with the struggles that marked the religious 
life in its beginnings. 

Of all the delusions to which a young Chris- 
tian is subject, perhaps the greatest and the 
( most prevalent in our day is the idea that 
when the soul has received its first gift 
of faith and love, and is regarded by others 
as a partaker of the grace of God, the work 
is done, the goal is attained, the soul may 
now sit down at its ease, only interrupted, 
it may be, by some sudden and short-lived 
efforts. Had Wilberforce thus paused at the 
threshold of the Christian life, thus been 


content to follow "afar off" the Saviour, 
asking not how much of union with God 
it was his privilege to enjoy, hut how little 
of piety would secure an entrance to Heaven, 
the Church would have lost one of the most 
valiant soldiers of the Cross, one of the 
most beautiful exemplifiers of the power 
of Christianity. Nor this alone. The world 
would have missed the exercise of that 
expansive love which toiled so long and so 
unflinchingly for the outcasts of mankind. 

To efforts for the good of others Mr. 
Wilberforce seems to have been continually 
led. No sooner was he taught by the Spirit 
of God to discern the reality and blessedness 
of the spiritual life than he hastens to com- 
municate his new-born joy. An extract from 
a letter to his sister closes the last chapter, 
and furnishes an illustration of this remark. 
Whatever ascendency over her mind was his 
by nature or habit, he used it all to allure 
her into those pleasant paths upon which he 
had himself entered. His letters to her 


present the tenderest picture of fraternal 
love, that will not rest till assured that its 
object is a partaker of the blessings of the 
Grospel. Fond and kind as are these epistles, 
they are yet interspersed with strict and 
discriminating views of duty and truth faith- 
fully urged. 

"What my heart now impels me to say 
to you/' he writes, "is i Search the Scrip- 
tures,' and with all that earnestness and 
constancy which that book claims, in which 
are the words of eternal life. Never read it 
without praying to God that he will open 
your eyes to understand it, for the power 
of comprehending it comes from him and 
him only. c Seek and ye shall find/ says 
our Saviour ; c Take heed how ye hear f 
which implies that unless we seek, and 
diligently too, we shall not find, and unless 
we take heed we shall be deceived in hearing. 
There is no opinion so fatal as that which 
is commonly received in these liberal days, 
that a person is in a safe state with regard 


to a future world, if lie acts tolerably up to 
his knowledge and convictions, though lie 
may not have taken much pains about 
acquiring that knowledge, or fixing those 

Again, after urging the performance of 
a duty, he says : " Let me guard you against 
thinking that there will be any great singu- 
larity in this : it is one of those things 
wherein the duty is so obvious and binding 
that in doing it there can be little exertion ; 
in leaving it undone, great blame. * * * 
May it please God, my dear sister, for 
Christ's sake to make you abound more 
and more in every good work. May your 
heart be comforted, your views cleared, your 
faith strengthened, your love confirmed. 
Here indeed I believe (for I have the 
declaration from the best of men) we must 
groan, being burdened. Alas ! what "cause 
have I for groaning ! But let us wait on 
G-od with continual prayers for the influence 
of His blessed Spirit to render us daily fitted 


for a better world, where all sin, as well as 
sorrow, shall cease for ever." 

Again he writes encouragingly : 

" In receiving the Lord's supper we make 
a public profession of our being willing to 
risk our all on Christ, and to appear before 
our Maker, relying on His merits alone for 
our favorable acceptance with Him ; we also 
solemnly devote ourselves to His service, and 
declare that we will endeavor to live to His 
glory, as those whom he has purchased, &c. 
Now in all this you could join from the bot- 
tom of your heart, and if fears and hesitation 
and doubts distract you, remember the poor 
man in the gospel, c Lord, I believe ; help 
Thou my unbelief/ 

" ! my dearest sister, how glorious a 
change will it be, if ever we all meet beyond 
the reach of those chances and accidents to 
which we are exposed in this uncertain state 
of existence, and with hearts overflowing 
with gratitude towards that Saviour, who so 
loved us that He gave Himself for us, to suf- 


fer death upon the Cross, to enter into pos- 
session of that happiness which knows no 
limit of degree or duration. May our con- 
nections be so formed as to be thus continued 
beyond the grave, that with those whom we 
most affectionately regard and value, we may 
dwell forever, where there is fullness of joy 
and pleasures for evermore ! 

May God Almighty bless you, my dearest 
sister, and calm and tranquilize your mind 
here, and conduct you to happiness hereafter." 

This mingled faithfulness and love were 
well repaid. Miss Wilberforce became a 
Christian, remarkable through life for humil- 
ity and self-distrust, and scrupulous regard 
for the right. For the religious doubts and 
scruples which at times beclouded her mind, 
she found in her brother at once an affection- 
ate adviser and a hopeful guide. 

The mother of Wilberforce seems by no 

means to have approved, in its beginning, of 



his religious course. Endowed with much 
that was lovely and valuable in character, 
she appears to have had a great dread of re- 
ligious excitement, or a zeal beyond what 
was common. When a rumor of his inward 
change reached her, she feared, she hardly 
knew what, of eccentricitv. How will he 
appear ? How make manifest this new en- 
thusiasm ? Soon however he visited her. 
The most obvious change was a more tender 
and deferential regard to herself. Always 
amiable and kind, there was now a gentler 
forbearance, a more thoughtful love, a 
stronger control over a temper naturally im- 
pulsive. Her son was not lost — no ; he was 
restored, clothed with new excellences. 

Far short too as the influences of his edu- 
cation fell of the standard which he had 
adopted, he renders grateful acknowledgment 
not only for the affection that blest his early 
years, but for the religious instruction also. 
This was by no means a spirit of timidity, or 
undue conciliation. When occasion called, 


he could express forcibly his differing views. 
On a point of conscience, on the subject of 
theatrical amusement s, he says : "I must 
speak out. When I reflect that I shall 
have to account for my answer at the bar of 
the great Judge of quick and dead, I cannot, 
I dare not withhold or smooth over my 
opinion/' He adds : " I trust my dear mo- 
ther will do justice to the motives which have 
compelled me thus to express myself." 

This justice was eventually rendered by 
this parent, herself possessed of many shining 
excellences of character. Her prejudices 
were overcome, her religious views deepened, 
the sours refuge sought. " Remember me in 
your prayers/' was her fervent request in 
after years, of the son whose piety she had so 

This affectionate plainness on subjects 
which he regarded of the highest moment 
appears often in letters of friendship. An 
extract follows from a letter to one of the 


most amiable and beloved of his early cor- 
respondents, Lord Muncaster. This is writ- 
ten in 1786, and affords an illustration of the 
nature of this influence in the first year of his 
public religious life. 

"0 my dear Muncaster, how can we go 
on as if present things were to last for ever, 
when so often reminded ' that the fashion of 
this world passeth away/ Every day I live, 
I see greater reason in considering this life 
but as a passage to another. And when 
summoned to the tribunal of God, to give an 
account of all things we have done in the 
body, how shall we be confounded by the 
recollection of those many instances in which 
we have relinquished a certain eternal for an 
uncertain transitory good ! You are not in- 
sensible to these things, but you think of 
them rather as a follower of Socrates than as 
a disciple of Jesus. You see how frankly I 
deal with you ; in truth I can no otherwise so 
well show the interest I take in your happi- 
ness. These thoughts are uppermost in my 


heart, and they will come forth when I do 
not repress my natural emotions. Oh that 
they had a more prevailing influence over my 
disposition and conduct ; then might I hope 
to afford men occasion c to glorify our Father 
which is in Heaven f and I should manifest 
the superiority of the principle that actuated 
me, by the more than ordinary spirit and ac- 
tivity by which my parliamentary, my domes- 
tic, and all my other duties were marked 

and characterized. 


The next year (1787) Mr. Wilberforce was 
early in London. A constant attendant in 
the House of Commons, awake always to the 
interests of his constituents, he was yet in- 
tent upon a work for the good of the country 
at large. This was the obtaining of a Eoyal 
Proclamation for the suppression of im- 

That at this time there prevailed great 
laxity of morals, there is abundant reason to 
believe. The mass of men, gay and busy, 
seemed to have forgotten the future life. 
Those who were looked upon as Christians, 
too often prized the outward form rather 
than the inward power. Even among the 
ministers of religion, indifference prevailed to 


a great extent. So plain was it that the 
state of public morals was ruinously low, that 
men of different views, who loved their coun- 
try's good, hailed with joy the King's Proc- 
lamation. This was to be followed by an as- 
sociated effort to carry out in practice its 
spirit and letter. 

Nearly a century before this time, a " So- 
ciety for the Eeformation of Manners" had 
existed, and its history, written by Dr. 
Woodward, had been to Mr. Wilberforce a 
prompter to a similar effort. The object of 
the earlier society had been two-fold ; the 
religious growth of its members being the 
first, the suppression of immorality the sec- 
ond. " I am convinced," wrote Mr. Wilber- 
force to his friend Mr. Hey, " that ours is an 
infinitely inferior aim ; yet surely it is of the 
utmost consequence, and worthy of the labors 
of a whole life." 

Warmly enlisted in this object, he endeav- 
ored to arouse among his numerous friends a 
spirit of resistance to the vices of the times ; 


the gayety and dissipation, which, pervading 
the higher ranks of life, were imitated by 
every other. Looking upon society as it ex- 
isted around him, knowing well from what he 
had been rescued, his heart burned to save 
others also. A member of the National 
Church, his first attempt was to interest the 
bishops in the object, and induce them to 
become members and patrons of the associa- 
tion. He determined for this end, at the 
close of the parliamentary session, to travel 
about the country and call on these prelates 
at their several residences. In this he spent 
considerable time, and obtained the counte- 
nance of many of the clergy, inducing them 
to become the active promoters of the plan. 
He also called on several others. In these 
self-denying labors he was no stranger to re- 
buffs and discouragements. 

" So you wish, young man/' said one, " to 
be a reformer of men's morals." 

Before them hung a painting. It was the 
scene of the Crucifixion, 


" See what is the end of reformers." 

If by this it was intended to discourage the 
young pleader for righteousness, the pictured 
presence of his Lord had perhaps a contrary 

These labors seem to have been attended 
with a good degree of success. The society 
was soon in active and useful operation, and 
did much in its day to check the outrages 
upon decency and morality which were 

Being well established, Mr. Wilberforce 
left its interests in charge of others, and ab- 
senting himself from London, after a tour 
into Devonshire, fixed himself for a season at 

Here he had leisure for meditation. " By 
God's help," he writes in his journal, " I will 
set vigorously about reform. I believe one 
cause of my having fallen so short is because 
I have aimed no higher. Lord Bacon says, 
great changes are easier than small ones. 
Eemember thy situation, abounding with 


comforts, requires thee to be peculiarly on 
thy guard, lest when thou hast eaten and art 
full thou forget God/' 

Not far from this time an excellent work 
was issued from the London press. It was 
entitled, " Thoughts on the Importance of 
the Manners of the Great to General So- 
ciety/' This book was attributed to the pen 
of Mr. Wilberforce. In its pages the king's 
mandate was mentioned with evident pleas- 
ure ; and while minute familiarity with the 
forms of polite life was betrayed, certain 
prevalent customs were examined and com- 
pared with the New Testament. It was a 
good book, but Mr. Wilberforce was not its 
author. It spoke so well his views of re- 
ligious and moral obligation, that we may 
suppose he could hardly have been displeased 
at the mistake. The real author was Miss 
Hannah More, who, having lived much in the 
great world, and gained great celebrity in the 
literary circles of London, had but lately re- 
tired to a home of her own in the country, 


where she devoted her time to the writing of 
such works as were calculated to promote re- 
ligion. With this lady Wilberforce became 
acquainted. "I find here/' she wrote from 
Bath in 1787, "a great many friends, but 
those with whom I have chiefly passed my 
time are Mr. Wilberforce's family. That 
young gentleman's character is the most ex- 
traordinary I ever knew, for talents, virtue, 
and piety. It is difficult not to grow wiser 
and better every time one converses with 

His views of life and duty may be gathered 
from a letter written a little before this to 
his mother. 

"It is evident that we are to consider our 
peculiar situations, and in these to do all the 
good we can. Some men are thrown into 
public, some have their lot in private life. 
These different states have their correspond- 
ing duties ; and he whose destination is of 
the former sort will do as ill to immure 


himself in solitude as lie who is only a village 
Hampden would were lie to head an army or 
to address a senate. 

" What I have said will, I hope, be suffi- 
cient to remove any apprehensions that I 
mean to shut myself up either in my closet 
in town, or in my hermitage in the country. 
No, my dear mother, in my circumstances 
this would merit no better name than deser- 
tion ; and if I were thus to fly from the post 
where Providence has placed me, I know not 
how I could look for the blessing of G-od 
upon my retirement ; and without this heav- 
enly assistance, either in the world or in 
solitude, our own endeavors will be equally 
ineffectual. . 

" I feel that I am serving Grod best when 
most actively engaged in the business of life. 
What humbles me, is the sense that I forego 
so many opportunities of doing good ; and 
it is my constant prayer that Grod will enable 
me to serve him more steadily, and my fel- 
low-creatures more assiduously." 


A new era had already coiainenced in the 
parliamentary career of Wilberforce. 

The attention of many humane persons in 
England had been turned to the subject of 
the African slave-trade. This traffic, toward 
the close of the last century, still existed, 
unchecked either by legal statute or public 
opinion. On the bosom of the Thames the 
slave-ship floated securely, and without 
restraint was accustomed to go and return. 
In the open light of day were these vessels 
fitted up with every facility for packing hu- 
man beings who were forcibly removed from 
their native land and sold in foreign climes. 

Checked for a season by the war of the 



American Kevolution, the trade liad recently 
"been greatly revived. 

The labors of the early opponents of 
slavery, commenced some years before this 
time, had not however been without effi- 
ciency. The perseverance of Granville 
Sharpe had caused to be promulgated 
among the people the great principle of 
the British constitution, that " Every man 
in England is free to sue for and defend his 
rights, and that force can not he used with- 
out legal process." By a strength of moral 
courage that would not be damped by any 
opposition, he had won from the judges of 
the law the decision that " As soon as any 
slave sets his foot upon English territory he 
becomes free/' Oowper, in the immortal 
lines beginning, ^ Slaves can not breathe in 
England," had embalmed in the public heart 
the action of the law. The untiring investi- 
gations of Clarkson into the minute details 
of the trade had been pursued for some time, 
and several excellent publications issued, at 



the head of which may he placed the prize 
essay which bore his name. This seemed to 
be as far as the friends of freedom had been 
able to proceed. There was among them no 
one of sufficient political influence to move 
the arm of government to put an end to this 

Many religious persons felt deeply on the 
sin of wresting from the African his rights, 
and dooming him to a life of bondage. " If 
persevered in after the period of investiga- 
tion/' wrote John Newton, than whom no 
one had greater means of knowing its nature 
and effects, " it will constitute a national sin, 
and that of a very deep dye/' 

Among the early advocates for the slave 
was the Rev, James Eamsay. A clergyman 
of the national church, he had resided many 
years in one of the West India islands. He 
had thus become familiar with slavery in its 
haunts, and on his return to England wrote 
and conversed on this subject in such a man- 
ner as awoke against him much opposition. 


Those with whom he had "been on terms 
of friendship when abroad, bitterly cam- 
plained of the indelicacy that lifted the vail 
from their domestic institutions. 

Mr. Eamsay, at the time of which we 
speak ? was on a footing of intimacy with the 
family of Sir Charles Middleton. His state- 
ments afforded themes for frequent conver- 
sation, and the heart of Lady Middleton 
became so deeply moved that she would not 
suffer the matter to rest. What was want- 
ing was evidently some one to espouse the 
cause, and give a voice and expression to the 
feelings afloat in the community. 

Lady Middleton entreated of her husband, 
who was himself a member of Parliament, to 
bring it forward and demand an investiga- 

" It would be in bad hands/' replied Sir 
Charles, " if committed to me, who have 
never made a speech in the House in my 

Who then is the fit person ? 


Mr. Wilberforce was mentioned — his tal- 
ents, his surpassing eloquence, his devotion 
to truth and' virtue, his friendship with the 

Sir Charles was prevailed on by Lady 
Middleton, whose zeal would admit of no 
delay, to write immediately to him. 

Of this application Wilberforce has said : 
" It was just one of the many impulses which 
were all giving my mind one direction." 

Others beside the breakfast-party at Lady 
Middleton's had fixed upon the same individ- 
ual as the only one who could effectually 
become the champion of this cause. To 
introduce it into Parliament, and to uphold 
it when introduced, required a leader of 
peculiar powers. Edmund Burke, the great 
advocate for East India reform, had, in 1780, 
attempted this also, but had been obliged to 
abandon it. The evil, so plain to his far- 
seeing vision, was hidden from the eyes of the 
British merchants, who had chosen him to 
represent their interests. It could not be 


done by a political partisan ; it must be 
done by one of independent position, and 
above all by one wlio could u combine and so 
render irresistible the scattered sympathies 
of the religious classes/' 

But these expressed opinions were by no 
means the moving power that induced in 
Mr. Wilberforce that devotion to the cause 
which marked his life. Some years before, he 
had written to a friend going to the West 
Indies, commissioning him to collect facts on 
this subject, and he had even then expressed 
the hope, almost a prophetic one, that some 
time or other he should " redress the wrongs 
of these wretched and degraded beings." 

In boyhood even he had written an article 
for a public journal on the " odious traffic in 
human flesh." We may add that the native 
characteristics of his heart, his kindness, sen- 
sitiveness, strong sense of justice, and up- 
rightness, were all adapted to enlist him in 
this subject. His native powers, without the 
influence of religion, might very probably 


xi^e led him to adopt this conrse. But they 
would scarcely have held him to the work. 
Alluding to the beginning of his parliament- 
ary life, he says, " personal distinction was 
then my darling object." How soon would 
this and every secondary motive have failed 
in the trying contest, let those who have em- 
barked in it attest. No arm, save that 
Almighty strength, on which he had now 
learned to lean, could have held a mind like 
his, so perseveringly, through long years of 
watching and waiting, of peril and opposition. 
In enlisting in this peculiar service of human- 
ity, the very greatness of the evil so appals 
the heart, the apathy of others appears so re- 
volting, that the power of looking steadily at 
the object seems too often to be taken away. 
All honor then be given to those who, in the 
dawning of its first day, upheld with steady 
hand and Christian heart this great cause — 
but no ; we pause. Let us rather render 
praise to that Almighty goodness, which was 
pleased in those early periods to set in motion 


moral causes, which, have not yet ceased to 
operate, but which reach even to our own 
times, and shall never cease to work, till the 
last shackle shall have been broken, and the 
last victim of slavery redeemed. 

For the basis of the arguments to be 
brought forward, a body of distinct facts was 
necessary. In order to this, Mr. Pitt issued 
a summons to the Privy Council to examine, 
as a board of trade, the commercial inter- 
course with Africa. Certain witnesses were 
deputed by the African merchants to appear 
before the council. These undertook to es- 
tablish, not only the policy but the absolute 
humanity of the trade ! We smile at these 
as barbarians ; yet is it not well, when self- 
interest comes in competition with the justice 
due to every human being, to consider in 
what light any proceeding may be viewed, 
when it shall have become a fact on the page 
of history ? 

Before this, however, the friends of aboli- 
tion had united, and formed themselves into 


a committee for the purpose of raising 
funds and collecting information. Their first 
meeting consisted of twelve, most of whom 
were London merchants, and the greater part 
Quakers. Of this body Granville Sharpe was 
elected chairman. Though small at first, it 
rapidly increased. The labors of Olarkson 
were unremitting. The voluminous results 
of his labors astonished Mr. Pitt, who, on one 
occasion, expressed some doubt as to the 
truth of certain statements. Upon further 
acquaintance their accuracy and minuteness 
overwhelmed him with conviction. This 
committee, at the suggestion of Mr. Wil- 
berforce, prepared evidence and witnesses, 
which they opposed to the assertions of the 
friends of the African merchants. 

These movements could not be in prog- 
ress without greatly arousing the public 
mind. Here is a liftle glimpse of the man- 
ner in which many felt and talked in that 
day. Hannah More thus writes to her 
friend, Mrs. Carter : 


" This most important cause, the project 
to abolish the slave-trade in Africa, has v.ery 
much occupied my thoughts this summer. 
The young gentleman, Mr. Wilberforce, who 
has embarked in it with the zeal of an apos- 
tle, has been much with me, and engaged all 
my little interest and all my affections in it. 
My dear friend, be sure to canvass every body 
who has a heart. It is a subject too ample 
for a letter, and I shall have a great deal to 
say to you when we meet. To my feelings 
it is the most interesting subject which was 
ever discussed in the annals of humanity." 

Again, she writes : "I am busily engaged 
on a poem to be called ■ Slavery/ I grieve I 
did not set about it sooner, as it must now 
be done in such a hurry as no poem should 
ever be written in, to be properly correct. 
But bad or good, if it does not come out at 
the particular moment ^lien the discussion 
comes on in Parliament, it will not be worth 
a straw" 

Just at this time the chosen leader of this 


great and humane enterprise was laid aside 
by dangerous illness. It seemed but too 
probable that death was about to remove 
him from the post assigned to him ; and 
to which he alone seemed fitted. This was 
to his fellow-laborers a most unexpected 
blow. A consultation of physicians ended 
in the declaration that " he had not stamina 
to last a fortnight." He was removed from 
London to Bath, little expecting to return. 
He himself, however, seems not to have 
given up entirely the hope of recovery. 
From Bath he writes : u Behold me a 
banished man from London, and from 
business. It is no more than I expect, 
if my constituents vote my seat abdicated, 
and proceed to elect another representative. 
However, I hope I shall yet be enabled to 
do them and the public some service." 

Before leaving London, however, he had 
secured an interview with Mr. Pitt. To him, 
in case of his own death, he committed the 
African cause. The prime-minister of Eng- 


land bent in tendermess over the couch of his 
apparently dying friend, and assured him 
that even were the leader removed, the cause 
should not die. With much feeling Wilber- 
force wrote of this interview : " He has 
promised me, if I desire it, to do all for me 
that, if I were an efficient man, it would he 
proper for me to do myself. This is all I 
can now say ; I might add more were we side 
"by side on my sofa/' 

The session of Parliament was advancing. 
The inquiry was afloat, " Can nothing he 
done ?" The London committee, aware of 
the loss incurred, and unwilling to make 
any change, insisted that if at last Mr. 
Wilberforce could do nothing, "they should 
leave to him the selection of his substitute.*' 
But he was now so reduced as to be unable 
to read their letters. At this emergency the 
prime-minister informed the chairman of the 
committee of the pledge he had given. This 
he was now ready to redeem. Accordingly 
on the 5th of May, 1788, Mr. Pitt brought 


forward a motion that would secure the 
introduction of the subject early the next 
session. Notwithstanding his wish to prevent 
premature debate, a warm discussion fol- 
lowed the motion. Mr. Fox declared him- 
self, almost without reserve, in favor of 
abolition. Mr. Burke, now in the decline 
of life, appeared its decided friend. Much 
sympathy was expressed for Mr. Wilberforce, 
and desires for his restoration. "It is bet- 
ter/' said Mr. Fox, "that the cause should 
be in his hands than in mine ; from him 
I honestly believe that it will come with 
more weight, more authority, more proba- 
bility of success." The general question was 
postponed. Curiosity had, however, been 
awakened, and a number of the members 
visited a slave-ship then fitting out in the 
river Thames. Pity and indignation took 
possession of them. Sir W. Dolben brought 
forward a bill for the immediate check of 
these cruelties. The slave merchants were 
loud in their complaints. Notwithstanding 


this, the bill, after some discussion and an 
assurance to the friends of abolition that it 
was but a temporary relief, and not a 
remedy, passed both Houses, and became a 

Mr. Wilberforce from his retirement was 
now able to watch the proceedings. Con- 
trary to the opinions of the physicians, he 
was evidently gaining strength. The fol- 
lowing summer found him with his mother 
and sister at his Westmoreland home. His 
health was as yet but partially restored. 
Such was the interest awakened in his 
behalf that during the summer he was over- 
whelmed with visitors. This was unfavorable 
to recovery, and he writes in his journal to 
this effect : " The life I am now leading is 
unfavorable in all respects both to mind and 
body ; as little suitable to me, considered 
as an invalid, under all the circumstances 
of my situation, as it is unbecoming my char- 
acter and profession as a Christian," 

" This place/' he wrote to Mr. Newton, 


just before lie quitted Westmoreland, 
ff wherein I looked this summer for much 
solitude and' quiet, has proved very different 
from retirement. The tour to the lakes has 
become so fashionable that the banks of the 
Thames are scarcely more public than are 
those of Windermere. You little knew what 
you were doing when you wished yourself 
with me in Westmoreland. My experience 
will not, I trust, be wasted upon me, and I 
shall lay my plans in future with more judg- 
ment and circumspection. At this moment 
my cottage overflows with guests/' 

This was his last summer at this rural 
home. When his lease had expired, he 
thought it on the whole best to give up the 

The following winter was spent in London. 
Again he yearns for more solitude and better 
opportunity for religious meditation. . " This 
perpetual hurry of business ruins me in soul 
and body. I must make a thorough reform."' 
Again he says : " Blessed be God who hath 


appointed the Sabbath, and interposes these 
seasons of serious recollection. May they be 
effectual to their purpose ; may my errors 
be corrected, my desires sanctified, and my 
whole soul quickened and animated in the 
Christian course. 'Write, I beseech thee, 
thy law in my heart, that I may not sin 
against thee. I often waste my precious 
hours for not having a settled plan before- 
hand to what studies to betake myself, what 
books to read. Let me attend to this for the 
time to come, and may my slave business and 
my society business be duly attended to." 

In the spring, as the meeting of Parlia- 
ment approached, though still in delicate 
health, he found himself in readiness for the 
next campaign. 

On the twelfth of May the great question 
came before the House. Mr. Wilberforce 
opened the debate in a speech of three hours 
and a half. In this eloquent appeal he gave 
utterance to the feelings that had long dwelt 
in his heart. Examining the conflicting 


details of testimony, lie made visible to the 
understanding of all, the effect of the trade 
upon Africa — upon the colonies — upon the 
nation itself. The appeal was overwhelming. 
The sufferings of the middle-passage, " where 
the aggregate must be multiplied by every 
individual tale of woe/' were asserted. The 
alleged comforts of the miserable victims 
were disproved. As a last infallible witness, 
Death itself, by its fearful ravages in the 
slave-ship, was summoned by the eloquent 
pleader for justice, to give testimony to their 
unutterable wrongs. 

This was an eventful day. The character 
of this address is best known by its effect 
upon the " audience of orators" who listened 
to it. Mr. Wilberforce was supported in the 
noblest manner by Pitt and Fox and Burke. 
Said the last of these : " The House, the 
nation and Europe are under great and se- 
rious obligations to the honorable gentleman 
for having brought forward the subject in a 
manner the most masterly, impressive and 


eloquent. The principles/' he said, " were so 
well laid down, and supported with so much 
force and order, that it equaled any thing he 
had heard in modern times, and was not 
perhaps to be surpassed in the remains of 
Grecian eloquence." 

Equally strong were the words of Bishop 
Porteus. He speaks of this as "one of the 
ablest and most eloquent speeches ever heard 
in that or any other place. It was," said he, 
" a glorious night for this country. I was in 
the House from five to eleven." 

The opponents of abolition were now on 
the alert to throw every obstacle in the way. 
But such an introduction of the subject to 
the. House of Commons was deemed by its 
friends of itself a triumph, and a precursor to 
still greater good. 


$i&it is fiittil fUrt, 

There is sometimes a strange interest in a 
distant charity, merely because, being afar off, 
it is dimly discerned, and surrounded, it may 
be, by circumstances that give it an aspect 
of romance. To convert the heathen on the 
other side of the world, to ransom captives 
one has never seen, may possess for some 
minds a charm that can even cause forgetful- 
ness of more immediate duties. To infer, 
however, because one does engage in enter- 
prises of charity and justice, embracing dis- 
tant objects, that therefore they neglect more 
obvious and familiar duties, is most unjust. 
Because a person accomplishes one good, we 
must not infer either that he cannot or does 
not perform another, even though that other 


may appear to involve a distinct set of pow- 
ers, a changed course of action. Because the 
pleader for the victim of the slave-ship, by 
his eloquent and energetic addresses, moved 
and swayed the hearts of his compeers, and 
even of his opponents, we must not suppose 
that he forgot the lowlier duties that are 
binding upon all. 

The acquaintance of Wilberforce with 
Hannah More has been already mentioned. 
Those who feared God were now his chosen 
friends. Of this distinguished lady we may 
remark, that by the few who knew her best, 
she was far more valued for the fervor of her 
piety than for the brilliancy of her genius. 
This last was but the goodly frame of the 
picture — the costly setting of the diamond. 
In August of this year she received at her 
own home at Cowslip Green, as welcome 
guests, Mr. Wilberforce and his sister. The 
Misses More spared no effort to entertain 
their visitors, and the sequestered surround- 
ings of their cottage-home were industriously 


explored. No one could ramble with Wilber- 
force among rural scenes without being aware 
of his genuine love for the beauties of natural 

Not more than ten miles from the home of 
Miss More rose the cliffs of Cheddar, not un- 
renowned for their abrupt and wild and rug- 
ged scenery, nor unvisited by curious trav- 
elers. The guest of Cowslip Green must by 
no means leave the neighborhood till he too 
had visited this romantic spot. He fancied 
time would hardly permit,, but at last suf- 
fered himself to be persuaded. On his return 
some disappointment was felt, that he, so 
great a lover of the picturesque, had ex- 
pressed so little of enthusiasm. 

"How do you like the cliffs ?" asked Miss 
Patty, who had urged the expedition. 

Mr. Wilberforce acknowledged they were 
" very fine/' but added, " the poverty and 
distress of the people are dreadful." There 
was no further conversation. He retired to 
the solitude of his own room. 


Miss Patty observed that the cold chicken 
placed in the carriage for his dinner returned 
untouched, and remarked to Hannah and 
Miss Wilberforce that she feared he was ill. 

At supper he again appeared. Seated at 
table he requested that the servants might 
be dismissed. Then addressing his hostess, 
he began : " Miss Hannah More, something 
must be done for Cheddar." He then un- 
folded the observations of the day. There 
could be found at Cheddar no resident minis- 
ter, no schools, little means of subsistence 
even ; wretched and squalid poverty and ig- 
norance seemed the leading characteristics of 
the people. 

The cause of his abstraction was now ex- 
plained, and the ladies entered warmly into 
his views. It furnished an evening's conver- 
sation, and the question, " What shall be 
done ?" was finally answered by Wilber- 
force, who exclaimed, addressing his hostess : 
u If you ivill be at the trouble, I will be at the 



This was near the close of August, and on 
the first of October Miss More opened her 
first school in Cheddar. This was a Sabbath- 
School, for the ignorant, the wretched people 
of that secluded district. 

"It was/' she wrote, "an affecting sight. 
Several of the grown-up youth had been tried 
at the late assizes — three were the children 
of *a person lately condemned to be hanged ; 
many were thieves, all ignorant, profane and 
vicious beyond belief. I can do them little 
good I fear, but the grace of God can/' 

To the Sunday-School was soon added a 
week-day school, at which the girls were 
taught sewing, knitting, spinning. Other 
destitute neighborhoods were visited, and be- 
fore the year closed, the number of Sabbath 
pupils increased to five hundred. 

Mr. "Wilberforce was by no means unmind- 
ful of the part which he had engaged to fill. 
To Miss More he wrote : 

" The best proof you can give me that you 
believe me hearty in the cause, or sincere in 


the wishes I have expressed, is to call on me 
for money without reserve. Every one should 
contribute out of his own proper fund. I 
have more money than time, and if you 
or your sister, (on whom I foresee must be 
devolved the superintendence of our infant 
establishment,) will condescend to be my 
almoner, you will enable me to dispose of 
some of the superfluity it has pleased God to 
give me, to good purpose. Sure I am, that 
they who subscribe attention, industry, &c, 
furnish articles of more sterling and intrinsic 
value. Besides, I have a rich banker in Lon- 
don, Mr. H. Thornton, whom I cannot oblige 
so much, as by drawing on him for purposes 
like these. I shall take the liberty of inclos- 
ing a draft for forty pounds ; but this is only 
meant for beginning/' 

Eepeatedly do we find him using similar 
words and thus fulfilling his contract. Chris- 
tian love, a pure expansive principle, will not 
fix itself upon a single class of objects. 
Where it burns in the heart, it will encircle 


with its own warmth and brightness what- 
ever it approaches. It is only when be- 
dimmed by human infirmity, that it cleaves 
exclusively to one class of subjects, or one 
mode of action. 

Eeturning to London Mr. Wilberforce was 
again deeply absorbed in the slave business. 
Facts and details were made familiar to him, 
and views interchanged, as once every week 
the slave committee dined with him. At the 
breakfast-table he usually received those who 
came to him on business, or with whose plans 
of benevolence he wished to become familiar. 
To a society which appears to have had for 
its object the education of young men for 
purposes of religious usefulness, he is stated 
to have subscribed in one year one hundred 
pounds under four anonymous entries, to 
avoid notice. Upon the objects of this 
charity he conferred the still more valuable 
favor of inviting them to his house and culti- 
vating their acquaintance ; often by his in- 


fluence giving a direction to the course of 
their future labors. His station in life, his 
intercourse with the great, had not had its 
effect to dim his perception of true merit, 
even under rough disguises. A keen and 
humorous perception of character marked his 
intercourse with the various classes of men 
by whom he was surrounded. "We have 
different forms/' he remarked, " assigned to 
us in the school of life — different gifts im- 
parted. All is not attractive that is good. 
Iron is useful, though it does not sparkle like 
the diamond. Gold has not the fragrance 
of a flower. So different persons have differ- 
ent modes of excellence, and we must have 
an eye to them all/' 

In June of this year (1790) he records in 
his journal a narrow escape from a serious 
accident. "How little/' he remarks, "have 
I thought of my deliverance the other day, 
when the carriage was dashed to pieces ! 
How many have been killed by such acci- 


dents, and I unhurt ! let me endeavor to 
turn to God/' He adds, a few days later : 
"I have befcn thinking of one particular 
failing — that of self-indulgence — while I 
have aimed too little at general reformation. 
It is when we desire . to love God with all 
our hearts, and in all things to devote our- 
selves to his service, that we find our con- 
tinual need of his help, and such incessant 
proofs of our own weakness, that we are 
kept watchful and sober, and may hope by 
degrees to be renewed in the spirit of our 
minds. may I be thus changed from 
darkness into light. Whatever reason there 
may be for my keeping open house in Palace 
Yard, certain it is that quiet and solitude are 
favorable to reflection and sober-mindedness ; 
let me therefore endeavor to secure to myself 
frequent seasons of uninterrupted communion 
with God." 

That same year he spent some time at 
Yoxall Lodge, the seat of Eev. T. Gisborne. 
With this gentleman a college acquaintance 


had been renewed by sympathy in the aboli- 
tion question. Here he became acquainted 
with one whom he afterward numbered 
among his most valuable friends — Thomas 
Babington. With these friends it became 
his custom to spend a portion of each 
summer. Here he could enjoy, when he 
desired It, uninterrupted privacy Here he 
put in practice resolutions which the con- 
stant influx of visitors at his own residence 
in Westmoreland had rendered impossible, 
devoting ten or twelve hours every day to 
study. u I could bear testimony/' writes 
Mr. Grisborne, "were such attestation need- 
ful, to his laborious, unabated diligence, day 
after day, in pursuing his investigations on 
the slave business, and in composing his 
invaluable work on Practical Christianity. 
He sallied forth always for a walk a short 
time before dinner, among the holly groves 
of the then uninclosed Needwood forest. Here 

u his grateful voice 
Sang its own joy, and made the woods rejoice." 


" Often/' said his host, " have I heard its 
melodious tones among the trees, at such 
times, from the distance of full half a mile/' 

" Never/' says Wilberforce himself of these 
days, "was I in better spirits than when I 
thus passed my time in quiet study." 

Another friend writes from the same place : 

"Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Babington have 

never appeared down stairs since we came, 

except to take a hasty dinner, and for half an 

hour after we have supped ; the slave-trade 

now occupies them nine hours daily. Mr. 

Babington told me last night that he had 

fourteen hundred folio pages to read, to 

detect the contradictions, and to collect the 

answers which corroborated the assertions 

made by Mr. Wilberforce in his speeches. 

These, with more than two thousand papers 

to be abridged, must all be done within a 

fortnight. They talk of sitting up one night 

in each week to accomplish it. The two 

friends are beginning to look very ill, but 

they are in excellent spirits, and at this 



moment I hear them laughing at some 
absurd questions in the examination. You 
would think Mr. Wilberforce much changed 
since we were at Rayrigg. He talks a great 
deal more on serious subjects than he used to 

Far enough was his from being " the easy- 
service of popular declamation on premises 
supplied by others." They who saw only the 
results of his labors spread before them, 
adorned with the graces of eloquence, little 
dreamed of the days and nights of toil that 
had preceded. 

The work on Practical Christianity has 
been alluded to above. Among the other 
employments of his retired hours, he had 
formed a plan of writing a religious work. 
It was often laid aside for other duties, and 
as often resumed. 

To a friend he writes from Toxall Lodge : 
"I have not advanced a single step since 
we parted at Buxton, in composing the 


little tract of which I then spoke to yon. 
This is not, however, owing to indolence, 
procrastination, or any alteration in my 
opinion of the utility of the work ; but after 
mature consideration I thought it right to 
make the slave business my first object. 
Ever since I have been at all stationary, I 
have been laboring at it with great assi- 

In November he returned to London. On 
the ninth of that month he records in his 
journal the death of his early and excellent 
friend, John Thornton. "He was allied to 
me," he adds, "by relationship and family 
connection. It was by living with great 
simplicity of intention and conduct in the 
Christian life, more than by any superiority 
of understanding or of knowledge, that he 
rendered his name illustrious. He devoted 
large sums annually to charitable purposes, 
especially to the promotion of religion in his 
own and other countries. He assisted many 


clergymen, enabling them to live in comfort 
and to practice a useful hospitality. He died 
without a groan or a struggle, in full view of 
eternity. may my last end be like his \" 


iiflffmi m^mptU 0f % pfMtfmt fill 

The day was approaching when the claims 
of the African were to he again presented to 
the Parliament. Notwithstanding the unre- 
mitting labors which we have recorded, the 
prospect was by no means bright. "When 
Wilberforce first appeared as the advocate 
for the slave, many of the friends who sym- 
pathized with him supposed that the work 
would be speedily accomplished. He himself 
may very possibly have indulged at the outset 
the thought that the nation needed only to 
be informed of the enormities of the slave- 
trade in order to hasten it to an inevitable 
issue. Soon, however, it became evident to 
the observing eyes of the prime movers in this 
matter that it was beset with difficulties. 


The first generous outbreak of indignation 
bad died away, and those who felt that " by 
this craft we have our wealth" had rallied 
their strength. The Guinea traders and 
West India planters rose up to defend the 
institution that filled their coffers with gain. 
Commercial men, to an extent altogether un- 
dreamed of, allied themselves with these, and 
presented a formidable array of opposition 
to the advocatess of the oppressed. Many, 
too, of the early friends of the cause had lost 
the ardor of their first love, while the oppo- 
nents were wakeful as self-interest could 
make them. 

" The affair goes on but slowly in parlia- 
ment/' writes one, " and with a more perti- 
nacious and assiduous attendance of our ad- 
versaries than of our friends, except indeed 
Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. William Smith, Sir. W. 
Dolben, and a few others, so that we can not 
yet guess the result." 

Moreover, the documentary evidences were 
ponderous and tedious. Necessary as were 


these protracted sittings to final success, they 
gave time to the defenders of the trade to 
multiply and to encourage one another. Yet 
was Mr. Wilberforce not without assurances 
of sympathy. John Wesley, now upon his 
death-bed, ready to depart and be with his 
Lord, with trembling hand penned a few lines 
to the advocate of abolition. 

"February 24th, 1*791. 

" My Dear Sir : 

" Unless the Divine power has raised 
you up to be as Athanasius, contra mundum, 
I see not how you can go through your glori- 
ous enterprise in opposing that execrable vil- 
lainy, which is the scandal of religion,, of Eng- 
land, and of human nature. Unless God has 
raised you up for this very purpose, you will 
be worn out by the opposition of men and 
devils ; but if God be for you, who can be 
against you. Are all of them together 
stronger than God ? be not weary in well- 
doing ! Go on in the name of God, till even 


American slavery, the vilest tliat ever saw the 
sun, shall vanish away before it. That He 
who has guided you from your youth up, may 
continue to strengthen you in this and all 
things, is the prayer of, dear sir, 

" Your affectionate servant, 

" John Wesley." 

This was as a voice from the confines of 
the heavenly glory, and well calculated to 
cheer and strengthen the heart of the la- 
borer at the dark period in which it was writ- 
ten. Yet had he still a higher refuge, a 
richer resource. He approached the conflict 
in a strength not his own. " May God/' he 
writes in his journal, a few days before the 
opening of the contest, u enable me to live 
more to his glory, and bless me in this great 
work I have now in hand. May I look to 
him for wisdom and strength and the power 
of persuasion, and may I surrender myself 
to him, as to the event, with perfect submis- 
sion, and ascribe to him all the praise if I 


succeed, and if I fail say from the heart Thy 
will be done." 

In April the debate came on. Both Mr. 

Fox and Mr. Pitt gave their support to the 
abolition bill. The latter in an eloquent 
speech was said to have equalled the most 
brilliant of his own great efforts. The debate 
was called "the war of the pigmies against 
the giants of the House." The opposition 
however gained ground, and " the character, 
talents, and humanity of the House were left 
in a minority of eighty-eight to one hundred 
and sixty-three." 

One effort of the friends of Africa, at this 
time, met with better success. The Sierre 
Leone Company received the sanction of the 
legislature. Its object was the formation of 
a colony on the coast of Africa. Such per- 
sons as might settle there, were to have no 
connection with the slave-trade, except by 
every possible means to oppose themselves to 

it. The first colonists were principally free 



colored persons who emigrated from Nova 
'Scotia, to the number of eleven hundred. 
They had been allowed, in that province, 
bounties of land for services rendered to the 
British arms in the war of the Eevolution. 
This fleet, consisting of fifteen vessels, was 
commanded by a brother of the celebrated 
Clarkson, whose health shortly after this be- 
came seriously undermined by reason of his 
unremitting labors in the cause of freedom. 
Lieutenant Clarkson was the first governor 
of the colony, and afterwards Mr. Macau ley. 

After this we find Wilberforce at a coun- 
try residence near Bath. He writes : " To 
have grass grow up to my door after so long a 
parching of my heels on the pavement of 
London, is not a luxury, but necessary for 
me." During the autumn he pursued a dili- 
gent course of study, making it a point of 
conscience to allow no time to run to waste. 
Nest to his duties to God, to humanity, to 
tn-rj business arising out of his public office, 
L regarded the cultivation of every talent 


bestowed upon liim as a binding duty. His 
inner life of progress and improvement in- 
cluded not alone the religious affections ; the 
intellect was also to be dedicated to God, and 
to be kept brightened and ready for the Mas- 
ter's use. Here we have a specimen of the 
manner in which seasons of relaxation were 
spent. " Busy in reading English History 
with Babington." In their daily walks the 
two friends continued their study, one of 
them reading aloud while his steps were 
guided by the other. " Delightful weather/' 
he says at this time — " reading Rapin out of 
doors." His occupations may be gathered 
from his list of subjects. " Bible, English 
History, Fenelon's Characters, Horace, by 
heart, Cicero de Oratore, Addison's Cato, 
Hume, Hudibras, Pilgrim's Progress, Dod- 
dridge's Sermons, Jonathan Edwards, Owen, 
Letters" Of the extent of his correspond- 
ence he complains as consuming much time, 
yet he felt it to be an important means of 


The next year (1792) the slave subject 
was again renewed in Parliament. Wilber- 
force wrote thus to his friend Mr. Hey : 

" I know how much you are interested in 
what regards our poor African fellow-crea- 
tures, and therefore I take up my pen for a 
single moment to inform you that after a 
long debate (we did not separate till near 
seven this morning) my motion for imme- 
diate abolition was put by, though supported 
strenuously by Mr. Fox, and by Mr. Pitt, with 
more energy and ability than were almost 
ever exerted in the House of Commons. 
Windham, who has no love for Pitt, tells 
me that Fox and Grey, with whom he 
walked home after the debate, agreed with, 
him in thinking Pitt's speech one of the most 
extraordinary displays of eloquence they had 
ever heard. For the last twenty minutes he 
really seemed to be inspired He was dilating 
on the future prospects of civilizing Africa, a 
topic which I had suggested to him in the 
morning. We carried a motion, however, 


afterward, for gradual abolition, against the 
united forces of Africans and West Indians, 
by a majority of two hundred and thirty- 
eight to eighty-five. I am congratulated on 
all hands, yet I can not but feel hurt and 
humiliated. We must endeavor to force the 
gradual abolitionists in their bill (for I will 
never myself bring forward a parliamentary 
license to rob and murder) to allow as short a 
term as possible, and under as many limita- 

Even this motion for gradual abolition 
proved in the end unsuccessful. Altered and 
amended and discussed, it was finally post- 
poned till the next session. Heart-wearying 
indeed to the real friends of the cause were 
the efforts for the gradual abolition of the 
trade. Watchful of the various shades of 
feeling, they could not be slow to perceive 
when a time was named for the gradual 
abolition to take effect, that there were not a 

few who were desirous of prolonging the days 



of the expiring monster. Darkness seemed 
to be settling down upon trie hopes of 

So obnoxious had the leaders of this .cause 
become that their correspondence with one 
another could not be trusted openly to the 
post-offices. To exchange letters with Mr. 
Wilberforce led to much inconvenience. 
" The box in which our petition is inclosed," 
says a Glasgow correspondent, "has been 
directed to another, that its contents may be 
unsuspected." " If you write," asked the 
late Dr. Currie of Liverpool, "please to 
direct without franking it." From that city, 
the chief seat of the African trade, others 
made the same request. " Correspondence 
was conducted by unsigned letters, sent in 
the covers of unsuspected persons." 

But these were among the lesser evils. To 
such a pitch had opposition arisen at one 
time that fears were entertained that Mr. 
Wilberforce would fall a victim to the vio- 
lence of his enemies. Among other move- 


ments of this nature we find mention of one 
Kimber, a West Indian captain. He is 
described by Sir James Stonehouse as " a 
bad man, a great spendthrift, one who would 
swear to any falsehood, and who is linked 
with a set of rascals like himself/' This man 
had been charged by Mr. Wilberforce in the 
debate of 1792 with great cruelty in the 
management of the trade. He had been 
publicly indicted for the murder of a negro 
girl, and only escaped from the law through 
the connivance of a person in power. By 
this desperate man Mr. Wilberforce was fol- 
lowed by threatened violence for two years. 
To his friend Lord Muncaster he wrote : 

" I know how little the proverb ' out of 
sight out of mind' holds good in the case of 
any of your friendships, and therefore I was 
not surprised at the warmth with which you 
expressed yourself on the subject of Kimber. 
Who told you any thing of the matter ? 
Was it from me ? I am sure I intended not 
to mention it, lest I should awaken your kind 


solicitude, which, at the distance of three 
hundred miles from its object, is not the 
most comfortable companion. Perhaps in 
some unguarded moment the matter slipped 
from my pen. I do n't know yet whether he 
has any further measures in store ; mean time 
be assured I will do all for my own security 
which you would think proper were you my 
adviser. I can't say I apprehend much ; and 
I really believe that if he were to commit 
any act of violence it would be beneficial 
rather than injurious to the cause" 

This annoyance was terminated at last by 
the interference of Lord Sheffield, an honora- 
ble opponent. 

Notwithstanding all the labors of Wilber- 
force, and the repeated proofs which he had 
given of his devotion to the cause of African 
freedom, there were not wanting those who 
represented him as weary of the work. In 
these dark days of the warfare of justice with 
cruelty, of high-toned principle with avarice 
and selfishness, it was indeed a favorite resort 


with, some to take advantage of inevitable 
delays and discomfitures to blame the want 
of zeal on tlie part of the leader. He, was 
said, in reference to the very cause which 
dwelt in his heart's deepest infoldings, the 
love of which had grown with his growth as a 
public man, and increased with the strength 
of years, to have given up ! His indignant 
surprise at this accusation can not be sup- 
pressed. In a letter to Dr. Currie, after 
clearing himself from the imputation, he 
adds : " In truth, the principles on which I 
act in this business, being those of religion, 
not of sensibility or personal feeling, can 
know no remission, and yield to no delay." 

In these words we have the key to that 
" persistency mingled with gentleness" which 
have made him a model for reformers. 

One who wrought from such motives must 
necessarily be hopeful, and he adds : " I am 
confident of success, though I dare not say 
any thing positive as to the period of it." 

Again he says of the accusation : " It is 


one of tliose calumnies to wlilcli every public 
man is exposed, and of which, though I have 
had a tolerable proportion, I can not com- 
plain of having had more than my share. In 
every case of political expediency, there 
appears to me room for the consideration of 
times and seasons. At one time it may be 
proper to push, at another, in other circum- 
stances, to withhold our efforts ; but in the 
present instance, where the actual commis- 
sion of guilt is in question, a man who fears 
God is not at liberty." 

At a subsequent day, amid darkened pros- 
pects, in reply to- one who insisted that the 
whole business be postponed, he exclaims 
with indignation against " the dry, calm way 
in which gentlemen are accustomed to speak 
of the' sufferings of others. The question 
suspended ! Is the desolation of wretched 
Africa suspended ? Are all the complicated 
miseries of this wretched trade suspended ? 
Is the work of death suspended ? No, sir, I 


will not delay this motion, and I call upon 
the House not to insult the forbearance of 
Heaven by delaying this tardy act of jus- 
tice I" 


tUgiflss f<r»jjrm. 

In 1792 Mr, Wilberforce shared a house at 
Olapham with. Henry Thornton, the young- 
est son of his deceased relative. Gradu- 
ally, in this neighborhood, there grew up 
around him a chosen circle of endeared asso- 
ciates. He was now entering the period of 
middle life, and while he stood high in pub- 
lic estimation, there were perhaps few men 
living who were richer in personal friends. 
The fascination of his social powers in part 
accounts for this, but more especially his own 
frank and affectionate spirit. Love, it is 
said, begets love, and an illustration of this 
may be found in the group of friends in 
whom he was accustomed to confide. In the 
successes even of his political life, there was 


always a heartiness of congratulation, a pe- 
culiar warmth and grace of sympathy. This 
at each period of his history can hardly fail 
to be observed. 

But to one who studies the memorials of 
his life a more striking feature is found in 
the increase of the religious spirit. If even 
in its beginnings, in the first freshness of the 
heavenly gift, it was marked by earnestness 
and vitality, it existed now in increased 
strength. There is in its maturer manifesta- 
tions an element of calmness, of trust, of lay- 
ing hold on God, w T hich marks an advance. 
From time to time as we proceed, it is plain 
that this divine principle increased in depth 
and serenity, taking at length entire possess- 
ion, " leavening the whole man/'' Not in 
vain had he striven, amid the bustle of busi- 
ness, the turmoil of public life, still to find 
time for prayer, for the study of God's word, 
for religious meditation. Not in vain had 
been his endeavor,- amid the temptations in- 
cident to his allotted sphere, "to set the 




Lord always before him " — " to take hold of 
his strength." 

"Few men" writes Henry Thornton, with 
reference to this period, "have been blessed 
with worthier or better friends than have 
fallen to jny lot. Mr. Wilberforce stands at 
the head of these, for he was the friend of 
my youth. I owed much to him in every 
sense at my first coming out in life ; for his 
enlarged mind, his affectionate and con- 
descending manners, and his very superior 
piety, were exactly calculated to supply what 
was wanting to my improvement, and my es- 
tablishment in a right course." — " When I 
entered life, I saw a great deal of dishonor- 
able conduct among people who made great 
profession of religion. In my father's house 
I met persons of this sort. This so disgusted 
me, that had it not been for the admirable 
pattern of consistency and disinterestedness 
which I saw in Mr. Wilberforce, I should 
have been in danger of a sprt of infidelity/' 


The social habits of Mr. W. and his views 
of duty connected therewith, have already 
appeared, ■'these were now however care- 
fully and conscientiously reviewed. He still 
felt that his was a public walk, yet would 
withdraw from others when he could without 

"Taken in/' he writes, "to dine with a 
vast company at W. Smith's. Dr. Aiken, 
Gillies, Mr. and Mrs. Barbauld, Helen Maria 
Williams, Mackintosh, Mr. Belsham, Mr. 
Sabbatiere, Mr. and Mrs. Towgood. I was 
not sufficiently guarded in talking about re- 
ligion after dinner. Mackintosh talked away. 
He spoke most highly of Pitt's slave-trade 
speech. Came home as if hunted to Thorn- 
ton's family party, and much struck with the 
difference. I threw out some things which 
may perhaps be of use/' 

25th. " Had a long conversation with 
Pearson, on the proper measure of a Chris- 
tian's liying in society, whether religious or 
worldly. He was very strong for solitude, 


and speaks of the benefit he personally has 
received from it. I talked with him very 
openly, and was much struck with what he 
said/' — "He strongly pressed solitude, from 
reason, Scripture, and his own personal ex- 
perience. I believe he is right, and mean to 
seek more quiet and solitude than I have 
done/' — " Eead Howe c on Delighting in 
God/ and much affected by it." 

On another occasion he says: "Let me 
deal honestly with myself in this matter, and 
if, on further trial, I find reason to believe 
that I ought to lead a more sequestered life, 
may I not dread the imputation of singu- 
larity. If from my extreme weakness this 
public company-keeping life cannot be made 
consistent with a heavenly frame of mind, I 
think I ought to retire more. Herein and in 
all things may God direct me, but let me 
strive more against my corruptions, and par- 
ticularly not straiten prayer." — "Let me 
universally distrust myself, but let me throw 
myself at the feet of Christ, as an. undone 


creature, distrusting, yea, despairing of my- 
self, but firmly relying upon Him. c Him 
that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast 
out/ c They that wait on the Lord shall re- 
new their strength/ " 

In the early days of his religious life he 

had lived so much in society that he had, 

without doubt, increased the conflicts of the 

way. Yet had he learned to make this 

subservient to higher ends. Not seeking 

singularity, conforming in indifferent things 

to the customs of those around him, winning 

the hearts of others by his own kindly spirit, 

he could yet show himself, when occasion 

called, the reprover of sin. His companions 

came in time to understand this. They 

learned that he was in earnest. They knew 

that serious topics could not be spoken of 

with lightness- — that if the remonstrance did 

not at once rise to his lips it was very likely 

withheld for the leisure that would commit 

the reproof to writing, thus rendering the 



impression more lasting. To those who spoke 
lightly or profanely, this latter was his cus- 
tom. By this, he has said, he never lost a 
friend, and but once endangered the contin- 
uance of good will. "I wrote to the late 

Sir , and mentioned to him this bad 

habit. He sent me in reply an angry letter, 
returning a book that I had given him, and 
asking for one he had given me. Instead of 
it I sent him a second letter of friendly 
expostulation, which so won him over that he 
wrote to me in the kindest tone, and begged 
me to send him back again the book he had 
so hastily returned/' 

In the midst of the engagements of public 
life he remembers the resolutions formed in 
solitude. u I will watch and pray/' he says, 
" or God may punish my carelessness by 
suffering me to fall into sin." 

The abolition question at this time was be- 
coming beset with difficulties. The appeal was 
made now to the people at large, to the moral 
sympathies of the educated and religious 


classes. "I wish you and all other country 

laborers/' wrote Mr. Wilberforce to Mr. Hey, 
" to consider yourselves not as having con- 
cluded, but as only beginning your work ;" 
adding these memorable and suggestive words : 
"It is on the general impression and feeling 
of the nation we must rely, and not on the 
political conscience of the House of Commons." 

The war with France at this time, to 
which Mr. Wilberforce had been opposed, 
occasioned a temporary estrangement be- 
tween the prime-minister and himself. The 
intimacy in which he had lived with Mr. Pitt, 
his strong affection for that great man, ren- 
dered a disagreement exquisitely painful. 
But from the warlike tone of the adminis- 
tration he strongly dissented, to the no small 
annoyance of the minister. This feeling was 
shared by Wilberforce, who wrote many years 
afterward, with reference to this : "No one 
who has not seen a good deal of public life, 
and felt how difficult and painful it is to differ 


from those with, whom you wish to agree, can 
judge at what an expense of feeling such 
duties are performed/' A period of personal 
estrangement followed this opposition. This, 
however, could not last. He writes in his 
journal : " Met Pitt for the first time since 
our political difference — I think both mean- 
ing to be kind to each other— both a little 

The war proved not so short as the min- 
ister had hoped ; and on this subject, two 
years after, his friend mentions: U A letter 
from Pitt, wishing me to come up, hoping 
we should agree/' He found at this time 
that the premier had adopted his own views, 
and earnestly desired that the country should 
be at peace. 

At this time, however (1793), another 
important subject claimed his attention. 
This was no other than the introduction 
of Christianity into the British dominions in 
the East. 



During the latter part of the last century a 
large measure of the attention of Parliament 
was absorbed Jin East Indian affairs. Though 
the British rule did not then as now include 
the vast empires of Southern Asia, yet mil- 
lions of pagans were subjects of her king, and 
could be looked upon in no other light by 
the political rulers of the day and the 
thoughtful minds of the nation. Already 
had the duty of imparting the blessings 
of the Gospel to those regions begun to move 
the hearts of Christians. Ever awake to the 
interests of Christianity and the good of his 
fellow-men, Mr. Wilberforce seized a suitable 
opportunity to call the attention of Parlia- 
ment to this great subject. Having given 
much attention to the matter, and consulted 
with others, on the fourteenth of May, 1793, 
he brought before the House certain resolu- 
tions having for their object the "religious 
improvement" of the natives of India. It 
was proposed that the government take this 
matter into its own hands, and extend the 


benefits of the religious establishment to 
these its benighted subjects. This was pre- 
sented with much power of argument and 
eloquence. "It is not meant/' said Mr. 
Wilberforce, "to break up by violence exist- 
ing institutions, and force our faith upon the 
natives of India, but gravely, silently and 
systematically to prepare the way for the 
diffusion of religious truth. Fraud and vio- 
lence are directly repugnant to the genius 
and spirit of our holy faith, and would frus- 
trate all attempts for its diffusion/' 

Notwithstanding his efforts, it failed. He 
writes to Mr. Gisborne : " The East India 
directors and proprietors have triumphed. 
All my clauses were last night struck out on 
the third reading of the bill, and our territo- 
ries in Hindostan, twenty millions of people 
included, are left in the undisturbed and 
peaceable possession, and committed to the 
providential protection of — Brahma/' 

Seldom had Wilberforce been so deeply 
disappointed. Yet in God he found refuge. 


In his private journal he writes, with refer- 
ence to this most trvins; termination of his 
efforts in this matter : u Yet where can I go 
but to thee, blessed Jesus ? Thou hast the 
words of eternal life. I am no more worthy 
to be called thy son ; yet receive me, and 
deliver me from all my hinderances, and by 
the power of thy renewing grace render me 
meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of 
the saints in light." 

Surely, we may exclaim, on reading this 
little passage, so replete with filial trust, hu- 
mility, and love, the defects of the servants 
of Grod are better than the triumphs of the 

But India, though uncared for by her con- 
querors, was remembered by God. Christian 
hearts were inspired to seek her good. 
Prayer without ceasing was made for those 
who dwelt in the shadow of death. "We 
have done too little for the souls of men and 
for the honor of our great Master," was the 
language of the pious. At a meeting of the 


associated Baptist churches at Nottingham, 
not far from this very .time, had William 
Carey addressed his brethren in the ministry 
on this topic. In the beautifully prophetic 
words of Isaiah, he called upon the assem- 
bled people of God : " Enlarge the place of 
thy tent, and stretch forth the curtains of 
thy habitations ; spare not, lengthen thy 
cords and strengthen thy stakes, for thou 
shalt break forth on the right hand . and on 
the left ; and thy seed shall inherit the earth, 
and make the desolate cities to be inhab- 
ited/' The inspiring idea of a mission to the 
heathen was unfolded. In the hearts of 
those who listened a responsive chord was 
touched, which has since vibrated through 
the world. On the thirteenth of June, 1793, 
less than one month after the parliamentary 
rejection, Carey and his associate sailed for 
the East. From that day to the present, 
India has never been without its missionaries. 
Nor was this all. The subject had been 
agitated, and the London Missionary Society 


came into existence. This also,, after a few 
years, was followed by the " Church Mission- 
ary Society for Africa and the East." Thus 
the angel having the everlasting gospel pur- 
sued his onward flight, though statesmen and 
legislators planned for the present state of 
existence only. Thus evermore is fulfilling 
the Saviour's prayer concerning his people, 
" that they all may be one/' though in the 
present state of twilight ignorance they mis- 
take outward separations for real differences. 
What Wilberforce failed to accomplish in 
the House of Commons, Carey and Fuller 
were permitted to commence at Nottingham, 
God in the mysteries of his wisdom, often- 
times choosing the simplest means to produce 

the sublimest results. 


The name of La Fayette is to every 
American a familiar sound. The favored 
friend of Washington, the ardent lover of 
liberty, the helper in the war that made us a 
nation. It is one of those charmed words on 
which we delight to dwell. Never to be for- 
gotten by those who witnessed them, are the 
scenes of his visit in after life, in the midst 
of a green old age, to the people he had loved 
in youth. It was indeed a good and a 
comely thing for the United States, in the 
progress of their vigorous youth, having won 
an honorable standing among the nations of 
the earth, to extend warm from the heart an 
invitation to. this friend of her early and ad- 
verse days, to visit her shores yet once more, 


the guest of the people. He came, and a na- 
tion rose to greet him. And still, in thou- 
sands of hearts, there yet lives the image of 
that goodly form ; and gracious countenance, 
and soul-kindling glance, embalmed with as- 
sociations that even then linked him with the 
mighty dead, and made his name a part of 
our country's history. 

But at the time of which we are writing. 
La Fayette was in prison. Known through 
Europe as a lover of constitutional freedom, 
his just and noble spirit spurned at the ex- 
cesses of the French Revolution. In those 
times of phrenzy and bloodshed, a true advo- 
cate for the rights of man had no place on 
which to stand. When it became evident to 
La Fayette that the party in power actually 
purposed to put the king and queen to 
death, he threw the whole weight of his in- 
fluence into an attempt to stem the tide of 
popular fury. Quitting the army, he ap- 
peared before the Convention. But his ef- 
forts were in vain. So far were that body 


from listening to him, that they sent messen- 
gers to his own soldiers to prevail on them 
to arrest their commander. Forced to flee, 
he barely escaped with his life. On the bor- 
ders of Prussia he was seized and confined in 
the dungeons of the fortress of Olmutz. This 
dreary confinement was only relieved by the 
presence of Madame de la Fayette, who pe- 
titioned that she might be allowed to join 
her husband. The sternness of Austrian 
rule only allowed this on condition of her 
becoming herself a captive. The noble 
daughter of one of the most ancient families 
of France chose this castle prison for her 
abode. This captivity had now lasted four 
years. The illustrious character of the 
prisoner, his high rank, and the spotlessness 
of his fame, caused his detention to become 
of sufficient moment to justify national inters 

Austria, being at that time in friendly al- 
liance with England, it was supposed that 
a request from the Court of St. James, would 


be heard and responded to by their confeder- 
ates. A romantic interest seems to have at- 
tached itself I to the whole life of the Ameri- 
can champion, and many throughout the 
British realm were anxious for his liberation. 
"While your friend (Mr. Pitt) remains in 
power/' wrote Granville Sharpe to Mr. Wil- 
berforce in 1798, "I have one favor to so- 
licit. I ask it for the sake of his own credit, 
as well as for the credit of his partners in the 
administration, that they may no longer lie 
under the suspicion of being accessory to the 
oppression of a worthy man, whose intentions 
were always disinterested and patriotic ; I 
mean the Marquis de la Fayette, who, with 
his amiable family, (I believe,) are still most 
cruelly and unjustifiably detained in an Aus- 
trian Bastile ! My application to you in 
favor of this unhappy gentleman has, I trust, 
some grounds of propriety. 

"He was a leading member of the late 
society in France for the abolition of the 

slave trade ; and I received likewise several 



very sensible and humane letters from him- 
self/ as an individual, on that subject, to 
which, I believe, he was very sincerely at- 
tached ; and on that ground alone I earnestly 
beg the immediate exertion of your best 
interest with your friend, while he continues 
in power, that an application may be made 
for the release of the unfortunate Marquis 
and his oppressed family." 

That this letter was the expression of a 
feeling somewhat widely extended we can not 
doubt. It could not be but the mind of 
Wilberforce would be awake to the merits of 
a case like this, and a spirit uniformly gener- 
ous as his, would be ready, when called upon, 
to espouse the cause, and seek the release of 
the illustrious captive. In the early days of 
his political career he had formed in Paris 
an acquaintance with La Fayette, and in 
later years his labors had been cheered by the 
exertions of this patriotic Frenchman, to free 
his own country from the disgrace of the 
slave trade. 


Still the subject was not without its diffi- 
culties. By many the name of La Fayette 
was cast out as evil. His strong sympathies 
with liberty were, according to the prevalent 
views of that day, naturally confounded with 
license — with misrule — with murder. Even 
the sagacious mind of Edmund Burke made 
no scruple of charging on the captive of 
Olmutz u the abundant harvest of crimes and 
miseries" of which he was said to have " sown 
the seeds." 

A motion was brought forward on this 
subject by General Fitzpatrick for an address 
to the Crown. This was, however, bitterly 
opposed, and as little could be said in oppo- 
sition to the motion, a tone of ridicule was 
adopted. Quick to perceive the moods of 
men with whom he had to deal, Mr. Wilber- 
force anticipated the peculiar storm that was 
rising around him. But he was not to be 
deterred. His own mind responded to the 
call of humanity, and on that broad ground 
he presented it to the House. " Never," he 


writes with regard to the affair, " did I rise 
to speak with more reluctance. I expected 
all the ridicule that followed ; and when 
Dundas by a happy peculiarity of expression 
talked of my amendment as designed to 
catch the 'straggling humanity' of the 
House, there was a perfect roar of laughter. 
However I felt sure that we were bound to 
use our influence with our allies to mitigate 
as far as possible the miseries of war/' 

Again he says on this subject : " It was 
late in the day before I had an opportunity 
of delivering my sentiments, and when at 
last an opening did present itself it was 
toward the close of a debate, when the 
patience of the House was exhausted. It 
may perhaps be a confession, but I must 
frankly acknowledge that the performance of 
an act of duty has seldom been set about at 
a greater cost of present feeling than by 
myself, when under the circumstances I rose, 
conscious that I should immediately draw on 
me the loud derision of a very full majority 


of the House of Commons. I am thankful 
that I was not weak enough to be deterred 
by foreseeing the consequences that were to 
ensue ; but trifling as the occasion really was, 
in the circumstances of the case, it was, at 
the moment, a severe trial of principle." 

This sensitive dread of ridicule and deter- 
mined disregard of it when in the way of 
duty form an instructive picture. Nor was 
the latter wholly without reward. Long 
afterward he received from La Fayette a 
special assurance of his gratitude. " Tell 
him/' was the message, "that in my life I 
can never forget the feeling with which I 
read that speech in the dreary dungeon of 

During this winter (1797) the abolition 
question, again brought forward, was again 
iefeated. The bill for the gradual abolition 
jhould have before this taken effect, but was 
>bstructed by the efforts of those who, what- 
ever their professions, were at heart desirous 
»f prolonging the days of the slave-trade. 


From tlie diary of Mr. Wilberforce during 
this busy season we extract the resolves by 
which he was guided : " To redeem time 
more ; to keep God more in view, and Christ 
and all he has suffered for us, and the unseen 
world, where Christ is now sitting at the 
right hand of God, interceding for his people. 
I would grow in love and tender solicitude 
for my fellow-creatures' happiness ; in pre- 
paredness for any events which may befall 
me in this uncertain state. I may be called 
to sharp trials, but Christ is able to strength- 
en me for the event, be it what it may." 

Not long after this was penned, there 
appeared in a Cambridge newspaper a series 
of charges directed against him of an ab- 
surdly malignant character. " There seems/' 
wrote Dr. Milner, "to be something system- 
atic meant against you. It amounts to 
downright hatred and persecution." 

" My being moved by this falsehood/' he 
wrote in his journal, a is proof that I am too 
much interested about worldly favor. Yet I 


endeavor, I hope, to fight against the bad 
tempers of revenge and pride which it is 
generating by thinking of all our Saviour 
suffered in the way of calumny. Let me 
humbly watch myself, so far as this false 
charge may suggest matter for amendment ; 
and also I ought to be very thankful that, 
with many faults of which I am conscious, it 
has pleased God that I have never been 
charged justly, or where I could not vindicate 
myself. Thou, Lord, knowest my integrity, 
and it will finally appear ; meanwhile let my 
usefulness not be prevented by this report, or 
that of my book thwarted." 

"the practical view."* 

The "book" which had been at intervals 
for four years in a state of preparation was 
now completed. He speaks of it as a 
"tract," but it had swelled into a volume. 
Indeed this work, now a standard one among 

* An Elegant Edition of this Work, on large type, has re* 
cently been issued by the Publishers of this Volume. 


religious writings, seems, in its "beginning at 
least, to have been undertaken with a view to 
the good of those to whom he was personally 
known. These, from his public position and 
accessible habits, his frank and genial tem- 
per, were a numerous throng. To these he 
wished to make known fully the inner princi- 
ples that molded his conduct. He would 
fain reveal to others the hidden strength that 
guided his way. He called it his " mani- 
festo," and said that now that he had clearly 
made known his views of the all-importance, 
the absolute necessity of religion, he felt that 
he had committed himself more decidedly 
even than before to the service of Christ. 
He also had fully expressed his hopes for the 
safety of the country in troublous times. 

Before the book came out, his friends were 
anxious for the result. Dr. Milner endeav- 
ored to dissuade him from the enterprise. 
"A person who stands so high for talent/' 
wrote David Scott, " must risk much in point 
of fame, at least, by publishing upon a subject 


on which there have been the greatest exer- 
tions of the greatest genius." 

Nor was the publisher without apprehen- 
sions of the safety of proceeding in the busi- 
ness. " You intend to put your name to this 
work ?" he inquired of the author. " Then I 
think we may venture on five hundred 
copies." Within a few days these were all 
sold ; and within half a year five editions had 
been called for. 

The friends of Wilberforce were delighted 
at his success, and letters of congratulation 
flowed in upon him. " I heartily thank 
you/' wrote Lord Muncaster, "for your book. 
As a friend I thank you for it ; as a man 
I doubly thank you ; but as a member of 
the Christian world I render you all grat- 
itude and acknowledgment. I thought I 
knew you well, but I know you better now." 
" I am truly thankful to Grod," wrote Bishop 
Porteus, alluding to the troublous aspect of 
the times, "that a work of this nature has 

made its appearance at this tremendous 



moment. I shall offer up my fervent prayers 
to God that it may liave a powerful and 
extensive influence on the hearts of men, 
and in the first place upon my own, which 
is already humbled, and will, I trust, in time 
be sufficiently awakened by it." "I can 
converse with you now as often as I please," 
wrote John Newton, " by your ]ate publica- 
tion, which I have now read through, with 
increasing satisfaction, a third time. I mean 
not to praise you, but I must and will praise 
the Lord for your book, which I can not 
doubt will be accompanied by a Divine bless- 
ing, and productive of happy effects. I hope 
it will be useful to me, and of course to those 
who attend my ministry." 

Amid these expressions of delighted friend- 
ship, grateful indeed to so affectionate a 
heart, we find the author diligently looking 
to his own way. " How careful ought I to 
be," he writes, "that I may not disgust men 
by an inconsistency between the picture of a 
Christian which I draw, and which I exhibit ! 


How else can I expect .the blessing of God 
upon my book ? May his grace quicken me !" 
The demand for the " Practical View" was 
indeed., almost, at that day, without a par- 
allel. It was not merely among personal and 
religious friends that it was appreciated. 
Numbers in the gay world paused in the pur- 
suits of pleasure to read those pages from the 
pen of one, known to have been once as 
thoughtless as themselves. Political men 
were curious to know what so distinguished a 
servant of the public would say on topics 
usually left to the ministers of religion. 
Many read the book coming from such a 
source, that would never have opened it 
otherwise. Its circulation became world- 
wide. In America edition after edition fol- 
lowed so quickly, as to exceed in number 
the repeated reprints of London. " In 
India," wrote Henry Martyn, in 1807, " Wil- 
berforce is eagerly read." Translated into 
the principal languages of Europe, its influ- 
ence was thus still farther extended. 


But the most precious triumphs of the 
work consisted neither in the approbation of 
valued friends, nor in the extent of the 
author's fame. Instances were not wanting; 
in which persons ascribed to the perusal of 
this work their first perception of the reality 
of heart religion. 

The Key. Legh Richmond writes : "To 
Mr. Wilberforce's • View of Practical Chris- 
tianity' I owe, through God's mercy, the first 
sacred impression which I ever received, as to 
the spiritual nature of the Gospel system, the 
vital character of personal religion, the cor- 
ruption of the human heart, and the way of 
salvation by Jesus Christ. As a young man 
recently ordained, I had commenced my la- 
bors too much in the spirit of the world." 
This book u convinced me of my error, led 
me to the study of the scriptures with an 
earnestness to which I had hitherto been a 
stranger ; humbled my heart, and brought 
me to seek the love and blessing of that 
Saviour, who alone can afford a peace which 


the world can not give. I know too well 
what has passed in my heart, for now a long 
period of time, not to feel and confess, that 
to this incident I was indebted originally for 
those solid views of Christianity on which I 
rest my hope for time and eternity/' 

Two years after the publication, Wilber- 
force wrote in his journal : " Heard to-day of 
a clergyman in the Isle of Wight to whom 
my book was blessed. Oh, praise ! praise ! 
Subsequently he resided for a season in the 
neighborhood of Legh Richmond's parsonage, 
of whom he speaks as " most affectionate and 
warm-hearted/' Among the many instances 
of the good effects produced by this vol- 
ume, this is adduced, being in itself a host. 
The ministry and writings of the author 
of the " Dairyman's Daughter," " Young 
Cottager," etc., are too well known to need 

One of the greatest men of the age which 

he adorned, employed himself, shortly before 

his death, in reading the same volume. This 



was no other than Edmund Burke. "If I 
live/' said he, " I will thank Wilberforce for 
having sent such a book into the world/' 
Dying, he committed the expression of his 
gratitude to another. 

" Let me recommend you to open on the 
last section of • the fourth chapter/' was the 
advice of the author to Mr. Pitt ; " you will 
there see wherein the religion which I espouse 
differs practically from the common system. 
Also the sixth chapter has almost a right to 
perusal, being the basis of all politics, and 
particularly addressed to such as you." 

A friend who at this season was with Mr. 
Wilberforce at Bath, remarks the simplicity 
of manner with which these numerous con- 
gratulations were received. The mind thor- 
oughly intent on duty can not easily be 
drawn from its own appropriate sphere. The 
inward life of the soul in its holy and vigor- 
ous action, reduces all that is outward to its 
proper proportion of influence. In this may 
be found the secret of his equanimity. In 


his private journal lie writes : " April 14th, 
Good Friday. I trust I feel true humilia- 
tion of soul from a sense of my own un- 
worthiness, a humble hope of the favor of 
God in Christ." — " Some desire to devote 
myself to Him who has so dearly bought 
me ; some degree of that universal love and 
good will which the sight of Christ crucified 
is calculated to inspire. If the contempla- 
tion here can produce these effects on my 
hard heart, what will the vision of Christ in 
glory produce hereafter ? I feel something 
of pity too for a thoughtless world, and 
what gratitude is justly due from me (the 
vilest of sinners, when compared with the 
mercies I have received) who have been 
brought from darkness into light, and I trust 
from the pursuit of earthly things to the 
prime love of the things that are above ! 
purify my heart still more by thy grace ! 
Quicken my dead soul, and purify me by thy 
Spirit, that I may be changed from glory to 
glory, and be made even here in some degree 
to resemble my heavenly Father." 


Hitherto Mr. Wilberforce seems. to have 
acted up to the resolve of Queen Elizabeth 
on her coronation-day, when she declared 
herself ivedded to her country, and that no 
other love should be admitted to share in or 
divide her affections. 

" I doubt/' he wrote to a friend, near the 
close of 1796, "if I shall ever change my 
situation. The state of public affairs concurs 
with other causes in making me believe I 
must finish my journey alone ! I much differ 
from you in thinking that a man such as I 
am has no reason to apprehend some violent 
death or other. I do assure you that in my 
own case I think it highly probable. Then 
consider how extremely I am occupied. 


What should I have done had I been a 
family man for the last three weeks ? But 
I must not Jthink of these matters now, it 
makes me feel my solitary state too sensibly. 
Yet this state has some advantages ; it 
makes me fed that I am not at home, and 
imposes on me the duty of looking for and 
hasting to a better country/' 

On this subject, however, a change came 
over his spirit. From the weariness of public 
service he sought the retirement of a domes- 
tic circle all his own, a sharer of* his heart — a 
wife— a home. 

At Bath he had become strongly attached 
to one whom he thought well fitted to 
become his companion through life. " I 
believe her/' he says, "to be a real Chris- 
tian, affectionate, sensible, rational in habits, 
moderate in desires and pursuits ; capable of 
bearing prosperity without intoxication, and 
adversity without repining. If I have been 
precipitate, forgive me, God ! But if, as I 
trust, we shall both love and fear and serve 


Thee, thou wilt bless us according to thy sure 
word of promise/' 

He was married on the 30th of May, 1797, 
to Miss Barbara Ann, eldest daughter of 
Isaac Spooner, Esq., of Elmdon Hall, in the 
county of Warwick. This chosen companion 
of his future way seems to have been of lovely 
deportment and loving heart, with religious 
and benevolent sympathies strongly aldn to 
his own. 

His very first visit in company with his 
bride was at Cowslip Green. " By this com- 
ing/' writes Hannah More to a friend, " he 
repaid a sort of vow made many years since — 
you will think it not amiss to make his agree- 
able wife set out with such an act of humil- 
ity/' He himself records the enjoyment de- 
rived from this journey, the welcome of the 
Misses More, and more especially the pros- 
perity of the schools at Cheddar. An early 
ride on Sunday morning enabled him to visit 
these, and also the schools of some of the 
neighboring parishes. Cheddar !— the very 


spot over whose desolation, eight years before, 
he had wept and prayed, and in behalf of 
whose destitute ones he had awakened to 
effort the energies of the ladies of Cowslip 
Green. Now the labors of the Misses More 
had penetrated far and wide, reaching to 
many parishes, and causing the desert to 
rejoice. The partakers of the benefits of 
these schools now might be numbered by 
thousands, her welcome and honored guest 
having aided her constantly with pecuniary 
means, as well as with the scarcely less 
precious gift of countenance and sympathy. 

Ever twined all too closely are life and 
death, and the rejoicings of the bridal were 
followed by a summons to Hull, to sympa- 
thize with his afflicted sister. She had been 
married to the Eev. Dr. Clarke, of Hull, who 
had died suddenly. Mr. Wilberforce spent 
three weeks with his mother and sister, and 
then returned to London. 

In his journal he writes, on the occasion of 


his birthday : "I have the utmost cause for 
self-humiliation, for gratitude, for grateful 
confidence, for earnest breathings after use- 
fulness. I have no time to write ; but let 
me use the few minutes I have in praying to 
God in Christ, the Author of my mercies, 
beseeching Him to hear me, to fill me with 
spiritual blessings, and enable me to live to 
his glory. My marriage and the publication 
of my book are the great events of the past 
year. In both I see much to humble me and 
fill my mouth with praises. Let me resign 
myself to God, who has hitherto led me by 
ways that I knew not." 

Again, to his friend Mr. Macauley he 
writes : " My cup was before teeming with 
mercies, and it has at length pleased God to 
add the only ingredient that was wanting to 
its fullness. In this instance, as in many 
others, His goodness has exceeded my utmost 
expectations, and I ought, with renewed 
alacrity and increased gratitude, to devote 
myself to the service of my Benefactor. I 


am half ready to blame myself for thus 
descanting on the topic I have chosen, but it 
is the strongest proof I can give you of my 
friendship, that I have opened myself to you 
on a subject on which, in speaking to a mere 
acquaintance, I should have been the least 
likely to dwell." 

In a letter to his sister, after alluding to 
his visit to Hull, he says : " Greatly indeed 
have I reason to be thankful for the signal 
blessing which Providence last year conferred 
on me. My dearest wife bears my hurrying 
way of life with great sweetness ; but it 
would be a sort of jail-delivery to her, no less 
than to myself, to escape from the tumult of 
this bustling town and retire to the enjoy- 
ment of country scenes and country occupa- 
tions. But I am well aware that it is not 
right for me to indulge in such reveries. My 
business is cut out for me, and Providence 
has greatly blessed me in the means of being 
cheered under it • which means I should do 

wrong to pervert into a source of indolent 



self-enjoyment, flinching from my collar and 
refusing to draw my load because a little 
weary of being in the harness. At all times 
when one feels this sense of weariness and 
longs for quietness and peace, one should 
endeavor to make it subservient to the pur- 
pose of raising one's mind heavenward, and 
of establishing a practical feeling of the 
vanity and transitoriness of all human things, 
and of this life being but a passage, and our 
home that " rest that remaineth for the peo- 
ple of God." 

The widowed sister of Wilberforce subse- 
quently became the wife of one of his dearest 
friends, long one of the most valued of his 
correspondents, and an influential and ardent 
fellow-laborer in the cause of African freedom 
— James Stephen. Confidence and brotherly 
love, even till life's latest day, mark the let- 
ters of these two, whose hearts were linked 
together first by friendship and afterward by 
family connection. The letters of Mr. Ste- 


plien reveal a warmth of affection and rich- 
ness of religious sentiment, mingling at times 
with a vein of humor and quaintly original 
speculation. The correspondents of Hannah 
More, as well as those of Wilberforee, num- 
ber many names famous in the literary world, 
but the letters of Mr. Stephen are among the 
best in her collection. He was the author of 
several valuable works on African slavery, 
particularly an able pamphlet entitled, " Eng- 
land enslaved by her own Colonies/' A resi- 
dence of some length in the West Indies had 
given him a minute knowledge of the work- 
ings of the system of colonial slavery, and in 
the House of Commons, as well as with his 
pen, he was ever ready to support the cause 
of abolition. 

A letter of pleasant and tender reminis- 
cences, addressed to Wilberforee in 1328, is 
full of interest. At the period to which Mr. 
Stephen refers, he was himself under the 
pressure of affliction. We give a little ex- 
tract : " You probably do not recollect, but I 


still do with, affectionate gratitude, a visit 
that you made me in Sloane Street, this day 
exactly thirty-four years ago. It was a very 
useful one. This is one of the anniversaries 
on which I remember sorrows that this life 
cannot compensate, but trace from them the 
wonderful and beneficent ways of that di- 
vine Benefactor, who, 

' Behind a frowning Providence 
Oft hides a smiling face.' 

" I sincerely wished for a long time after to 
drop all intercourse with you and the friends 
that surrounded you. I disliked all society 
except that of my poor orphans, and the 
kind friends who took charge of them. I 
wished and expected soon to die ; and besides 
had a blamable aversion for the company of 
those who stood higher in rank or fortune 
than myself, especially for the Pittite aris- 
tocrats whom I generally met at your table. 
But you, my kind friend, would not suffer me 
to forsake you ; and the recollection of your 


tender, generous conduct at that crisis of my 
affliction was a tie that bound my heart to 
you, till I found, two or three years after, 
another bond of attachment/' — a Nor was 
your coming at that crisis, and your subse- 
quent compassionate and affectionate con- 
duct a needless link in the chain of events 

that led to my union with her/' 



f tifttfilo-j f imis* 

In 1797 Mr. Wilberforce wrote on the fail- 
ure of Ms motion with regard to the slave 
trade. " I have been too long used to it to 
feel much disappointment/' From year to 
year had the subject been presented with a 
steady perseverance which would not be de- 
terred from its object. Yet its enemies had 
gained strength. Gradually had opposition 
assumed a bolder front. Among the circum- 
stances that combined to frustrate the efforts 
in behalf of the slave, was the unsettled and 
troubled state of public affairs. The French 
Revolution, beginning in the love of freedom, 
and ending in unbridled license, convulsed 
Europe with horror. Blood had flowed like 
water in the streets of Paris, and the king 


and queen, with multitudes of the nobility, 
had perished by the guillotine. Principles, 
calculated to disorganize society, to put down 
all that was venerable and sacred, as well as 
all that was unwelcome or oppressive, found, 
to some extent, advocates in England. 
French philosophy had found entrance into 
many minds. Eevolutionary principles had 
been compressed into sixpenny pamphlets, 
and sold about the country. Greatly to the 
injury of the cause of abolition, many of 
these disorganizers were noisy advocates for 
its success. The cause itself fell into dis- 
grace. In the minds of many it was con- 
nected with revolution, with misrule, with 
the undermining of the existing customs of 
society. They would hear nothing of it. 
They hated even the name. The privileged 
classes feared the rising of the people, the 
nobles trembled in their high places. From 
seats of power and influence came a deadly 
opposition to every thing that could possibly 
be connected with the madness of revolu- 


tionary reform. Keligion trembled at the 
audacious front that infidelity and even 
atheism had assumed ; royalty felt the pre- 
cariousness of its own grasp upon the scepter. 
The time had been when George the Third, 
at his levee, would pleasantly inquire, " How 
go on your black clients, Mr. Wilberforce ?" 
But this state of feeling had been followed, 
on the part of the royal family, by one far 
less favorable. Much, very much, did the ad- 
vocates of the African cause suffer, from being 
identified with the Jacobins of their day. 
The insurrections of St. Domingo and Dom- 
inica were laid to their influence ; the oppo-r 
nents of freedom not scrupling to use them 
as arguments that their worst predictions 
were now being fulfilled. 

That Mr. Wilberforce was the unflinching 
friend of order and religion, that he was a 
strongly-attached member of the National 
Church, that his piety had here found its 
home and nurture, might go far to shield him 
personally from these imputations, but with 


many of his followers it was far otherwise. 
The evil of all great reforms, that of enlisting 
unworthy advocates, seemed peculiarly to 
beset the cause of African freedom. 

Besides the contest had now become an 
old one. The eloquence of its advocates 
alone made its mention tolerable. Wilber- 
force, upheld by such supporters as Fox and 
Pitt, kept it alive in the House of Commons, 
when in other hands all allusion to it might 
have been overruled. These were the dark 
days of English abolition. " What tem- 
pests/' wrote Wilberforce at the opening of 
the nineteenth century, "rage around, and 
how are we urged to seek for that peaceful 
haven, which alone can insure real security 
and happiness !" 

At this time a plan was in process for the 
establishment of a public journal of a re- 
ligious character. It was to contain also u a 
moderate degree of political and common in- 
telligence/' In setting this forward, Mr. 


Wilberforce was much occupied. As the 
result of this, we find the " Christian Ob- 
server/^ issued in January of 1802. Several 
articles in its earlier numbers were from his 
own pen, and from that of Mr. Henry Thorn- 

The various other schemes of benevolent 
effort which occupied his attention, may be 
gathered from his journal. The " Slave 
Trade/' " Society for Bettering the Condition 
of the Poor/' " Proclamation Society/' " Sierra. 
Leone/' " Condition of Children in Cotton 
Mills," " Sunday Bill," u Oath Bill," are all 
mentioned as in turn occupying his at- 

" Never distress yourself, my dear Mary," 
he writes at another time to a relation, u on 
the ground of my being put to expense on 
account of yourself or your near relatives. 
As it has pleased God, of his good Provi- 
dence, to bless me with affluence, and to give 
me the power, and I hope the heart, to assist 
those who are less gifted with the good 


tilings of the present life, how can I employ 
them more properly than in near relatives ; 
and when I strengthen your hands, who are 
always endeavoring to promote their best 

interests. You may say to that, on 

your account, I am willing to take the charge 
of Charles' education for the next two years/' 

Again in another letter he adds : " I trust 
you are comfortably provided as to pecuniary 
circumstances ; if not, remember that 1 am 
your natural resort, as being your near rela- 
tive and like-minded friend/' 

We take, at this point, occasion to notice 
the habits of Mr. Wilberforce, which these 
extracts, trifling as they are, may help to illus- 
trate. Even his gayest and most thoughtless 
days had been marked by generous outlays 
for those less favored by fortune than himself. 
When, however, he came to regard as a 
Christian his obligations to serve his fellow- 
men, . these impulsive charities became at 
once enlarged and systematic. This addi- 
tional power was obtained by the avoiding 


of extravagance, by the giving up of many 
expenses common to young men of his station 
and wealth. Early in the Christian life he 
recognized the duty of self-denial, that the 
means of doing good might be increased. 
Previous to his marriage, one fourth of his 
income seems to have been so employed, and 
an imperfect record for one year accounts for 
more than two thousand pounds. From all 
the scattered items which we are able to 
glean concerning the extent of his benefac-- 
tions, speaking in our own currency, we are 
safe in saying that his annual gifts must 
have amounted each year, for a large portion 
of his life, to the sum of ten thousand dollars. 
This, we are inclined to the opinion, is too 
low an estimate. In one year of grievous 
depression and scarcity a much larger sum is 
expended. He writes, during the year refer- 
red to, of "the heavy burden of obtaining 
relief for our starving manufacturers in the 
West Eiding of Yorkshire/' " I thank God 
that I am able/' he writes the same year 


(1800) to Miss Hannah More, "without 
inconvenience, to make an extraordinary ex- 
ertion ; and as to keeping strictly within 
one's income at such a season as this, it is 
as unreasonable (not to say any thing of its 
wickedness) as it would be for a man to keep 
determinately to his ordinary rate of walking 
when a hungry lioness was at his heels. But 
we feel for our own safety more than for 
another's sufferings. Indifferent health/' he 
says, a at this time alone prevented" him 
" from going down into the West Eiding to 
ascertain facts" for himself; and in conse- 
quence of the large call upon his purse he 
thought of " giving up his villa for a few sea- 
sons. I should thus/' he says, " save four or 
five hundred pounds per annum, which I could 
give to the poor. Yet to give up the means 
of receiving friends there, where, by attending 
family prayers, and in other ways, an impress- 
ion may be made on them, seems a great 
concession. And with Broomfield I can, by 

management, give away one-fourth of my 



income. Lord, guide me aright. But 
there, or wherever else I am, do Thou grant 
me Thy Holy Spirit to fill me with every 
Christian grace, love, joy, peace, long-suffer- 

Occasionally we gain a glimpse of the way 
in which his manner of life was viewed by 
others. " Our dear and benevolent friend/' 
wrote Dr. Milner, with reference to the poor 
manufacturers at this gloomy period, " abso- 
lutely exhausts his strength on this subject. 
He is the most feeling soul I ever knew, and 
also the most patient and indefatigable in 
endeavoring to lessen the miseries of the 

But the war-clouds that darken the face of 
Europe seem about to part, and as a sudden 
gush of sunlight comes the hope of peace. 
This prospect is seized upon by Mr. Wilber- 
force, and a "grand abolition plan" is pro- 
jected, an agreement among the nations of 
Europe to prohibit the slave-trade. This 
year he will not risk a defeat — it shall not be 


brought forward in the House : he will exert 
his chief strength with the officers of the gov- 
ernment. | 

But the king and his cabinet had disa- 
greed. The tried and trusty premier had 
gone into retirement, and the new ministry- 
was far less vigorous in itself, as well as less 
favorable to the destruction of the slave- 
trade. Wilberforce wrote in his diary : "If 
Mr. Pitt had been minister when this peace 
was negotiated, the question would have 
come into discussion ; but Lord Hawkesbury 
and Mr. Addington could not be persuaded. 
At last I wrote to both of them very serious 
letters, telling them I did so to leave it 
with them solemnly/' 

Deeply disappointed, he still persisted in 
his efforts. Though " cast down" he was 
not " destroyed/' The fortunes of war had 
placed under British rule new and unculti- 
vated islands in the West Indies. Specula- 
tion was clamorous that these lands be 


improved. They must be stocked with new 
slaves — fresh importations from Africa. To 
prevent this no exertion must be spared — 
every energy of every friend to humanity is 
needed now, not to do away the trade, but to 
prevent its Increase. "What an eternal 
blot/' wrote Wilberforce at this time, " would 
it be on the character of Parliament if, after 
having resolved by an immense majority that 
the slave-trade should be -gradually abolished, 
we should enter on the cultivation of a new 
settlement, the complete peopling of which 
with negro slaves, reckoning the number 
always lost in opening uncleared lands, would 
take nearly a million of human beings/' 

The adverse temper of the existing House 
of Commons could not be doubted. The 
most that could be done was to wring a 
reluctant consent from the prime-minister 
that he would pause a little before opening 
St. Vincent's and Trinidad for the reception 
of newly-imported slaves. 


While the new administration was form- 
ing, the friends of Wilberforce hoped that 
he might be included among the officers 
of the cabinet. He himself confesses to some 
"risings of ambition/' "I am too much," 
he says, "for a Christian, yet not greatly, 
intruded upon by earthly things, in con- 
sequence of these late political changes. 
Blessed be God for this day of rest and 
religious occupation, wherein earthly things 
assume their true size and comparative insig- 
nificance ; ambition is stunted, and I hope 
my affections in some degree rise to things 

His views of the slave-trade rendered it 
out of the question to hold office under the 

" I am returning soon/' he wrote from 

Bath, "to the bustle of London and political 

life. May Grod protect me by his grace, and 

enable me to stand the fiery trial. I shall if 

I honestly wait on Him. 

" Pitt and Kose dined with me quietly to- 



day. Pitt very pleasant, and we stayed, 
chatting politics. What wonderful magnan- 
imity !— wishing to form for Addington the 
best possible administration. I do not won- 
der if it be misunderstood. Little minds can 
not receive the idea — it is too grand for their 
comprehension. But to one who considers it 
in all its bearings, and who estimates its full 
worth, it will appear one of the noblest speci- 
mens of true magnanimity/' 

A temper so noble could only be under- 
stood by being shared. The magnanimity 
attributed by Wilberforce to his friend might 
well be transferred by another to himself. 
Had he sought earnestly for himself the 
splendors of rank and title, the honors of 
official power, who for a moment doubts that 
they might have been attained to almost any 
extent ? Had the young ambition that so 
successfully prompted his first efforts after 
distinction remained unchastened by a holier 
principle, who can doubt that his career 
would have been in accordance with its 


beginning — brilliant, successful, lofty ? But 
it would not,j it could not have been, as now, 
sacred, enduring, a remembrance treasured 
deep in many hearts as proof of what our 
nature may become under the moulding influ- 
ence of the eternal and gracious Grod. 

But only through conflicts can the soul 
attain its strength ; and at this point of 
time, laying open his inmost heart, do we 
find the Christian writing words of sorrow 
that on these particular subjects "his feel- 
ings do not always correspond with his judg- 
ment/' that though " comparatively indiffer- 
ent" in his " cool estimate of the things of 
this life/' he has yet become " soiled and 
worldly-minded/' though convinced that "re- 
tired domestic life is by far the most happy." 

In this dubious state of mind he will not 
stay, for he knows well that for the soul's 
lassitude there is a remedy. He resolves that 
he will apply himself even with more vigor 
than before to the divine employ of walking 
with God. 


He adds : " Though in the main I have 
thought myself pursuing the course chalked 
out for me by Providence, and with a dili- 
gence prompted and enjoined by the injunc- 
tions of Scripture, yet I suspect that I had 
better allot more time ; say two hours, or an 
hour and a half, to religious exercises daily 
(beside Sundays), and try whether, by so 
doing, I can not preserve a frame of spirit 
more habitually devotional ; a more lively 
sense of unseen things ; a warmer love of 
Grod, and a greater degree of hungering and 
thirsting after righteousness ; a heart less 
prone to be soiled with worldly cares, designs, 
passions and apprehensions, and a real, undis- 
Bembled longing for heaven, its pleasures and 
its purity. 

i I know all external means are nothing 
without the quickening Spirit ; but the Scrip- 
ture enjoins constant prayer, and the writings 
and examples of all good men suggest and 
enforce the necessity of a considerable portion 
of meditation, and other religious exercises for 


maintaining the spiritual life vigorous and 
flourishing. Let me therefore make the 
effort in humble reliance on Divine grace. 
God, if he will, can turn the hearts of men, 
and give me favorable opportunities, and 
enable me to use them, and more than com- 
pensate for all the hours taken from study, 
business, civility, and devoted to Him. 
give me but a single heart and a single eye, 
fixed on thy favors, and resolutely determined 
to live to thy glory/' 

Soon after we find him busy upon " a plan 
for the education of the lower orders." 

The public execution of a young man for 
forgery at this time had the effect greatly to 
strengthen, in the mind of Wilberforce, a long- 
cherished disapprobation of the usual haste in 
inflicting the penalty of the law. This case 
was one of great affliction. The condemned 
person was the son of a clergyman ; his wid- 
owed mother had come to London on his 
behalf, and much sympathy had been excited. 
" He had been patronized/' Mr. Wilberforce 


wrote to Mr. Babington, " by the Marquis 
of Buckingham, Windham and others, and 
being dissipated and profuse beyond his 
means, is now under sentence of death, and 
sure to suffer. To be short, we trust it has 
pleased God to bless the means which we 
have used, and that the poor man is a true 
convert. Providentially he has had far more 
time than usual for preparation, and, as he 
remarked himself when I was with him the 
other day, he has enjoyed much more space 
and leisure for religious consideration than if' 
he had been lying on a sick-bed/' * 

The hopes entertained that this mournful 
period of leisure had been improved rendered 
the brief time usually allowed in such cases a 
thing of comment among those interested for 
the fate of the unfortunate prisoner. At one 
time Mr. Wilberforce wished to bring the 
matter before Parliament. " To bring it for- 

* Subsequently to this we find Mr. Wilberforce giving 
attention to a bill for lessening the number of capital pun- 


ward would lead/' lie replied, when pressed 
upon the subject, " to much profane ribaldry, 
and no good result. Tou could only argue it 
on grounds to which the great mass of mem- 
bers are altogether strangers/' Carefully did 
he guard the interests of religion by respect 
to times and places, not exposing, by hasty 
and badly-chosen opportunities, sacred topics 
to the ridicule of the coarser and sterner 
spirits with whom he came in contact. Yet 
that this delicacy was united with ■ boldness 
his whole life was a proof. Of the very low 
tone of Christian doctrine sometimes adopted 
by clergymen he would express his disappro- 
bation by the remark : " I could say as much 
as that in the House of Commons." 

The sound of war was again heard. A 
message from the king announced the neces- 
sity of immediate military preparations. The 
new administration was but feeble compared 
with the former. " In almost every depart- 
ment," wrote Mr, Wilberforce to Mr. Babing- 
ton, "there has been sad mismanagement. 


Then my poor slaves ! This king's message 
lias made it improper to bring forward my 
intended motion. And all this time the 
wicked abominations of the slave-trade are 
going on in a greater degree than ever." 

At this crisis a change was effected in the 
king's cabinet, and Mr. Pitt was again placed 
at the bead of public affairs. 

In these darkened and troublous times was 
laid the foundation of the " British and For- 
eign Bible Society/' In the work of circulat- 
ing the Scriptures Mr. Wilberforce and a few 
others had been engaged privately , before any 
organization had been attempted. It was 
now proposed to combine in this great object 
the scattered energies of Christians of every 
name. The catholic aspect of this association 
appealed to every heart enlarged with true 
Christian love. He was one of its first found- 
ers and fastest friends. 

His journal' at this time records a narrow 
escape from drowning, and afterward while on 
a visit to a friend's house, we find the following : 


" Sad work, indeed ! oaths of a minor kind, 
and much unprofitable talk. Alas ! I would 

not live at Place to be subject to this 

for any consideration/' Again, at another 
time : "A servant here is dangerously ill. 1 
know they have no objection to my talking 
with him, yet I feel a sad lukewarmness and 
even averseness to it. Did Christ feel the 
same toward me and other poor sinners ?" 
Again : "I saw the sick man for twenty 
minutes, and prayed with him." Similar 
entries to this last occur almost daily during 
the remainder of his stay. 

The leisure of the ensuing Christmas was 
marked by self-examination and prayer. He 
writes : u Give me, Lord, spiritual under- 
standing ; let me drink of the water of life. 
To thee, Lord, I fly for succor ; thy prom- 
ises are sure, and thou wilt cast out none who 
come to thee. There is my stay ; otherwise 
thou mightest well cast me out ; but by 
commanding us to have grace, to grow in 

grace, thou showest us that we may. then 



let me rouse myself, lest having preached to 
others I myself should be a cast-away. I 
have found my heart much affected by look- 
ing at past entries in my journal, and at the 
idea that to the eye of God all" my various 
crimes, follies and vanities are present in 
their full, unabated, unsoftened size and 
character, as they at the time appeared to 
me. Lord, enable me to purify myself as 
thou art pure. I hope I feel deeply humbled 
at the footstool of God's throne, and prostrate 
I plead the atoning blood of Christ, and hum- 
bly trust in his promises of pardon and of 
grace. When I look forward to the scene 
before me, and think how ill I have gone on, 
I shrink back with dread. But, Lord, I 
cast my case on thee, I flee to thee for suc- 
cor. Saviour of sinners, save me. Help, 
Lord, help, watch over me, guide and guard 
me ! Amen." 

"While his views of himself were thus heart- 
humbling, those of his friends who saw most 
intimately "the daily beauty of his life/' 


could only give God thanks for the great 
grace bestowed on him. 

The contrast between the modest estimate 
of himself, and that which his friends and 
the public made of him, is sometimes very 
striking. Having addressed a crowded audi- 
ence at a religious anniversary, while his pre- 
sence had given a charm to the occasion, and 
his words of power had subdued the hearts 
of the multitude, he records with entire sim- 
plicity in his journal, that he did " pretty 
well, and every body kind to me." 

" I should like you/' said Mr. Stephen, in 
his own playful vein, " to write a life of your- 
self, and I would write another, and it would 
be curious to see the different renderings 
that would be given to the self-same facts/' 

Yet our readers have doubtless observed, 
even of the most depreciating clauses of his 
daily journalizings, they are not the sweeping 
accusations of a false humility, but often 
qualified ; and if progress in the Christian 
life can be only discerned, it is in all frank- 
ness recorded, as well as its opposite. 


$lsalitxan si t\}t SJUln-ir&foK 

No sooner was the new ministry formed, 
than the Abolition Bill was again brought 
forward. Though the change in the govern- 
ment was not the cause of succefes, yet, in the 
present state of affairs, it was regarded as a 
bright omen. To prevent the extension of 
slavery in the newly-occupied islands, had 
latterly occupied much time, and also shut 
out the main question. This was now re- 
sumed under more favorable auspices. Sev- 
eral circumstances conspired to strengthen 
the hands of the friends of Africa. The in- 
fluence of France was lessened. To her 
bright, brief dawn of liberty had succeeded 
the imperial rule of Napoleon, and her phil- 
osopher reformers had come to be less 


dreaded. Union had been affected between 
the English and Irish Parliaments, and in 
both House's these new members were favor- 
able to abolition. Some of the West Indian 
body themselves had moderated their oppo- 
sition, and talked of a compromise. The 
idea had been broached, that it was possible 
to overstock the islands with new importa- 
tions. The prospects of freedom were bright- 
ened. To the London Committee were 
added several names, strong in zeal, and also 
capable of guiding others. Among those we 
find the names of Stephen, Macaulay and 
Brougham. Still, however, there existed an 
opposition, formidable in numbers, wealth, 
and rank, in the House, while without, from 
some who ruled the literary tastes of the 
community, came an influence scarcely less 
powerful. The advocates for Africa felt that 
the time had come for a vigorous and united 

On the 30th of May, 1804, Mr. Wilberforce 


moved the first reading of the Bill. It 


passed by a large majority. The friends of 
the cause gained additional courage. John 
Newton, now verging in his eightieth year, 
wrote : 

" Though I can scarcely see the paper be- 
fore me, I must attempt to express my 
thankfulness to the Lord, and to offer my 
congratulations to you, for the success which 
He has so far been pleased to give to your 
unwearied endeavors for the abolition of the 
slave-trade, which I have considered as a 
mill-stone, sufficient of itself to sink such an 
enlightened and highly-favored nation as ours 
to the bottom of the sea/' — " I have now a 
new proof of what I always professed to be- 
lieve, that to prayer, faith, and patient 
perseverance, all things are possible." — 
" Whether I, who am within two months of 
entering my eightieth year, shall live to see 
the accomplishment of the work, is only 
known to Him in whose hands are all our 
times and ways ; but the hopeful prospect of 
its accomplishment will, I trust, give me 


daily satisfaction as long as my declining 
faculties are preserved." 

From this time little doubt was felt with 
regard to the final issue. But that the 
struggle was not yet over, was apparent to 
those best acquainted with its perplexities. 
At the opening of Parliament, the next year, 
Mr. Wilberforce was urged to put off the 
presentation. Mr. Pitt wished then, not feel- 
ing so firmly fixed in power as before, to put 
aside all questions that could possibly have 
the effect to divide his friends. But Mr. 
Wilberforce absolutely refused. " I will 
never," said he, " make that holy cause sub- 
servient to the interests of a party." The 
minister could estimate his motives. He 
writes that Pitt " called on me, and was very 
kind about it." The Bill was brought in at 
an early period. The event proved that 
those who considered the work as done, had 
been too sanguine. It failed on a second 
reading, manifestly through the absence of a 


few who on former occasions had given it 
their support. This was a surprise as well as 
a grief. 

"Alas, my dear Muncaster," wrote Mr. 
Wilberforce, "from the fatal moment of our 
defeat on Thursday evening, I have had a 
damp struck into my heart. I could not 
sleep on Thursday or Friday night, without 
dreaming of scenes of depredation and 
cruelty on the injured shores of Africa, and 
by a fatal connection diffusing the bale- 
ful effects through the interior of that vast 
continent. I really have had no spirits to 
write to you. Alas, my friend, in what a 
world do we live ! Mammon is the God we 
adore, as much almost as if we actually 
bowed the knee to his image." 

In January of this year was finished the 
earthly career of that great statesman — 
William Pitt. We pause for a moment to 
record the observations of his friend on this, 
to him, most affecting event. 

"There is something peculiarly affecting 


in the time and circumstances of poc^r Pitt's 
death. I own I have a thousand times, (aye, 
times without number,) wished and hoped 
that a quiet interval would be afforded him, 
perhaps in the evening of life, in which he 
and I might confer freely on the most im- 
portant of all subjects. But the scene is 
closed — for ever/' 

To another friend he writes : " Poor Pitt, 
I almost believe, died of a broken heart ! for 
it is only due to him to declare, that the love 
of his country burned in him with as ardent 
a flame as ever warmed the human bosom, 
and the accounts from the armies struck a 
death's blow within." — " A broken heart ! 
He was in the station the highest for power 
and estimation in the whole kingdom— the 
favorite, I believe on the whole, both of king 
and people. Yes, this man, who died of a 
broken heart, was First Lord of the Treasury, 
and Chancellor of the Exchequer. The time 
and circumstances of his death were peculiar- 
ly affecting, and I really believe, however in- 


credulous you may be, that it dwelt on the 
minds of the people in London, for — shall I 
say, as I was going to say, for a whole week ? 
I really never remember any event producing 
so much apparent feeling. But London soon 
returned to its gayety and giddiness, and all 
the world has been busy about his inherit- 
ance before the late possessor is laid in his 
grave. Poor fellow ! It is an inexpressible 
satisfaction to me to be able to reflect, that I 
never for a moment gave him reason to be- 
lieve that I had any object whatever of a 
worldly kind in continuing my friendly con- 

The new ministry, at the head of which 
were Mr. Fox and Lord Grenville, favored the 
abolition cause. The experience of last year 
had proved that much was to be done. 
Mr. Wilberforce had for some time designed 
writing an Address on the Slave-Trade, and 
in the interval of Parliament set resolutely 
about it. Facts once well known had, with 
the lapse of years, passed from the minds of 


men. Clarkson, the early and untiring la- 
borer, now with renovated health, set forth in 
quest of new witnesses, to prove the abomina- 
tions of the trade, and arouse the energies of 
its opponents. 

A year had not passed since the death of 
Mr. Pitt, when his great rival was no more. 
Mr. Fox died in the interval of the two ses- 
sions. Both of these master-spirits among 
men were from the beginning the friends of 
African freedom. " Two things," said Mr. 
Fox on his death-bed, " I wish earnestly to 
see accomplished — peace with Europe, and 
the abolition of the slave-trade ; but of the 
two I wish the latter." 

The great work was not to be stayed by 
the death of its powerful friends. The pam- 
phlet in preparation by Mr. Wilberforce was 
designed particularly to produce an influence 
in the House of Lords. At once bold and 
conciliatory, it was well adapted for the effect 
designed, and its influence was manifest in 


the discussions of the Upper House. " In 
admiring your triumph/' writes Mr. Hayley, 
"I also admire the lenity with which you 
adorn it. Tou treat your opponents with 
the mild magnanimity of a British admiral, 
who, when the thunder of his cannon has re- 
duced the ships of his enemies, exerts his 
fortitude and skill to save them from utter 

During the progress of the abolition strug- 
gle, prolonged as it was, this very feature in 
the character of its parliamentary advocate 
had sometimes given offense. The smallest 
grace, the most obvious justice even, awarded 
to an opponent, is offensive to the hot-headed 
partizatfi. The singular candor that would 
always state with their due weight the argu- 
ments of an adversary, necessarily to some 
was offensive, for the intrinsic beauty of 
truth and justice is by the mass even of good 
men much less plainly discerned than are the 
lines of party division. Yet was this very 
candor and benignity of spirit repeatedly the 


means of disarming opposition ; and but for 
its influence, we may well doubt whether the 
cause of the slave would ever have found a 
majority in the House of Lords. 

The approaching debate called for every 
exertion. Names of influence in the Upper 
House were still found in the opposition. 
The Duke of Clarence had declared openly 
against the bill, speaking out, as was under- 
stood, the sentiments of the reigning family. 
The friends meantime were on the alert. On 
the morning of the debate Wilberforce went 
over the list of peers with Lord Grenville. 
He could scarce entertain a doubt of success. 
With the evening the crisis came. The bill 
was carried by a large majority. 

The victory was now regarded as sure. 

" I receive/' wrote Wilberforce, " congratu- 
lations from all, as if all were done, but I 
can not be sure. May it please God to give 
us success." 

But the hour of triumph drew nigh. The 

bill passed to its second reading in the House 



of Commons. The day previous every pros- 
pect was in its favor. " Never, surely/' wrote 
he, "had I more cause for gratitude than 
now, Avhen carrying the great object of my 
life. Lord, let me praise Thee with my 
whole heart !" 

Thus he entered the House on the 23d of 
February, 1807. Never before had that body 
given such honor to one of its members. 
When called upon in the address of Sir 
Samuel Eomilly to contemplate the result 
of the struggle of so many years, to contrast 
the feelings of the Emperor of the French in 
all his greatness with one present, who would 
that night lay his head upon his pillow, and 
remember that the slave-trade was no more, 
every eye was turned toward Wilberforee, 
and the assembled legislators, forgetful of 
their usual gravity, burst out in acclamations 
of applause ! 

"Is it true," asked Mr. Hey, "that the 
House gave you three cheers at the con- 
clusion of the Solicitor General's speech ?" 


" I can only say/' was the reply, " that I 
was myself so completely overpowered by my 
feelings, when he touched so beautifully on 
my domestic reception, (which had been pre- 
cisely realized a few evenings before, on my 
return from the House of Lords,) that I was 
insensible to all that was passing around 

The debate proceeded. The opposition 
of one West India planter roused yet once 
more the same eloquent voice that near 
twenty years before had begun its pleadings 
for Africa. The last opponent was quelled. 
Then came the voting. The result was an 
overwhelming triumph. 

In fancy we may follow the advocate for 
abolition to his home. Already his best be- 
loved friends are coming in, wearing each a 
festival air of joy. Thornton, Macaulay, and 
Grant, and Stephen, and that earnest, earliest 
laborer — Granville Sharpe. We call up to 
the mind's eye the animated form and speak- 
ing countenance of the master, radiant with 


solemn joy, serene yet sparkling, as one by 
one these faithful friends speak out their ex- 
ulting congratulations. One was in that 
company to whom Wilberforce was for the 
first time made known, a name since widely 
known and well beloved — Eeginald Heber. 

There was after this a slight embarrass- 
ment owing to the change in the administra- 
tion. Again the matter required vigilance. 
It passed in the House of Lords, and the 
ministry about to go into retirement made 
its consummation their last act. Two days 
after, it received the royal assent, and became 
a law. 

Victory was at last complete. Congratula- 
tions flowed in from all sides. " To speak," 
wrote Sir James Mcintosh from the other 
Indies, " of fame and glory to Mr. Wilber- 
force would be to use language far beneath 
him. what twenty years in the life of one 
man were those which abolished the slave- 
trade ! How precious is time ! How valua- 


ble and dignified is human life, which in 
general appears so base and miserable ! How 
noble and! sacred is human nature, made 
capable of achieving such truly great ex- 
ploits r 

For himself, the great and favored leader 
in this holy cause, only in ascriptions of grat- 
itude and praise could he give vent to his 
emotions. " Oh what thanks do I owe to the 
Giver of all good for bringing me in His gra- 
cious Providence to this great cause, which at 
length, after almost nineteen years' labor, is 
successful I" 

What, indeed, was all the glory won in 
fields of war by the idol of the French army, 
compared with this one bloodless victory — 
this one triumph of those great principles of 
peace and love, whose Divine Author has 
declared of himself that he came into the 
world "not to destroy men's lives, but to 
save them ! 



The attachment of the Yorkshire men to 
their distinguished representative was strong 
and ardent. We find, however, when rival 
candidates were at times opposed to him, 
seasons of great political excitement occurred. 
These contested elections served to reveal the 
extent of the regard entertained toward him 
by his constituents. The struggle of 1807 
was the most remarkable one. Two powerful 
opponents were in the field at this time, and 
only the consciousness of a strong hold on the 
minds and hearts of men could have induced 
Mr. Wilberforce to have entered the lists 
under the circumstances. That he had never 
been a resident in Yorkshire, and also that he 
had always acted independently of political 


parties, were calculated to circumscribe his 
influence and throw him more directly upon 
the personal regard, the respect- for his char- 
acter and reputation, which was so largely- 
accorded him. 

Five years before this, at an approaching 
election, he had himself thought of retiring 
from his arduous position. At that time 
there was little opposition, but he writes : 
" I pant for quiet and retirement, and what 
is more, I entertain serious doubt whether 
I should not act wisely in retiring from 
my public station — whether I should not 
be able to promote the glory of Grod and 
the good of my fellow-creatures more in 
private. My pen might then be employed 
regularly and assiduously. But I am deter- 
red from yielding to the impulse I feel thus 
to secede, by the fear of carving for myself/' 

Again, after a natural allusion to the unde- 
sirableness of being " turned out/' he adds : 
"When this should have been conquered, I 
own I should rejoice in my liberty. However, 


I would leave my continuance in public life 
to Providence, and not retire till its signal 
be given for my release/' 

This election, in 1802, had been carried 
triumphantly, and was thus commented upon 
by his cousin, Lord Carrington, in a letter 
which was docketed by Mr. Wilberforce, 
"kind condolence on my reelection :" " The 
event/' says the letter, "which has given 
your other friends so much pleasure, has 
filled me with sentiments of an opposite 
nature. No constitution can stand, during 
the ordinary period of an active life, such 
exertions as yours have been in the service of 
York. It would have been better if, like 
Windham, but without his struggle and 
defeat, you had taken refuge in a close bor- 
ough, the means of which I should have been 
proud to have afforded you/' 

At the period of the present contest, Mr. 
Wilberforce evinced far less disposition to 
retire. The successful issue of the great 
question, which had occupied so many years. 


had probably rather stimulated than satisfied 
the desire to exert himself for the public 
good. Other questions of importance were 
also in the perspective of the future. He 
therefore, in compliance with the custom 
which placed the political candidate face 
to face with his constituents, set off for 
York, and, narrowly escaping on the journey 
a serious accident, plunged at once into the 

The nomination was in his favor, and the 
incidental expenses were at once assumed by 
his friends. On the first day of the election, 
however, appearances were against him. Some 
began to despond. But the county had not 
shown its strength, and the vast muster of 
freeholders on the third day changed the 
aspect of things. "Boats/' says one, "are 
proceeding up the river heavily laden with 
voters ; farmers lend their wagons ; even 
donkeys have the honor of carrying voters for 
Wilberforce, and hundreds are proceeding on 
foot. No money can convey all the voters, 


but if their feelings are aroused his election is 

"My being left behind on the poll/' he 
writes to Mrs. Wilberforce, on the evening of 
Friday, " seemed to arouse the zeal of my 
friends ; they exerted themselves, and have 
mended my condition. You would be grati- 
fied to see the affection that is borne me by 
many to whom I am scarcely or not at all 
known. I am thankful for the weather/' (the 
preceding days had been stormy and boister- 
ous,) " and indeed I am thankful for a quiet 
mind, which is placed above the storm." 

Of the scene of popular tumult which took 
place during these election days, we can 
hardly form an idea. Boisterous applause 
and as boisterous abuse seemed to be the 
inevitable lot of the candidate for the public 
confidence. The assemblies addressed were 
unruly and tumultuous. He writes : " Latterly 
they will not hear me." As an instance of 
the respect in which even here his religious 
character was held, we find that the Sabbath 


was left to him comparatively unmolested. 
At these times he was able to " bless God 
that his mind was pretty free from poli- 
tics." "I was much struck/' says one, "to 
see how totally he had dismissed from his 
mind all thoughts of the approaching contest. 
His conversation related entirely to subjects 
suited to the day. He was speaking par- 
ticularly about the words c Being made meet 
for the inheritance of the saints in light/ 
and seemed free from any sort of care about 
what was coming." 

The following letter illustrates these re- 
marks. It was addressed to Mrs. Wilber- 
force : 

" Sunday night, May 24. 

"I am robbed of the time I meant to spend 
in writing to you, at least of a great part of 
it ; but you will be glad to hear that I have 
spent a pleasant Sunday, though this evening 
is of necessity passed in my committee-room. 
I have been twice at the Minster, where the 
sublimity of the whole scene nearly over- 


came me. It is the largest and finest Gothic 
building probably in the whole world. The 
city is full of freeholders, who came in such 
numbers as to fill the whole area of the place 
(a very large one) where the service is per- 
formed, and every seat and pew were filled. 
I was exactly reminded of the great Jewish 
passover in the temple, in the reign of Josiah. 
It is gratifying to say that there was the 
utmost decency, and not the smallest noise 
or indecorum, no cockades or distinctive marks. 
Indeed, I must say, the town is wonderfully 
quiet considering it is an election time. 

"How beautiful Broomfield must be at 
this moment ! Even here the lilacs and 
hawthorn are in bloom in warm situations. 
I imagine myself roaming through the shrub- 
bery with you and the little ones ; and, in- 
deed, I have joined you in spirit several 
times to-day, and have hoped we were ap- 
plying together at the same throne of grace. 
How merciful and gracious is God to me ! 
Surely the universal kindness that I experi- 


ence is to be regarded as a singular instance 
of the goodness of the Almighty. 

" I bless God my mind is calm and serene, 
and I can leave the event to Him without 
anxiety ; desiring that, in whatever state I 
may be placed, I may adorn the doctrine of 
God my Saviour, and do honor to my Chris- 
tian profession. But all is uncertain, at least 
to any human eye. I must say good-night. 
May God bless you. Kiss the babes, and 
give friendly remembrances to all family and 
other friends. Every blessing to you and 
ours in time and eternity." 

The calm sunshine of the spirit seems, in 
the midst of this exciting contest, to have 
been scarcely overclouded. It is compara- 
tively easy in stillness and retirement, and 
freedom from disturbing causes, to cultivate 
religious devotion. But while one records 
that he has heard the candidate repeating to 
himself the sweet and sacred stanzas be- 
ginning : 



" The calm retreat, the silent shade 
With prayer and praise agree;" 

another opens a view of the tumult that was 
abroad. " Nothing since the days of the 
Kevolution," says the York Herald, "has ever 
presented to the world such a scene as this 
great county for fifteen days and nights. 
Eepose or rest have been unknown in it, ex- 
cept as it was seen in a messenger asleep 
upon his post-horse ; or in his carriage. 
Every day the roads in every direction to and 
from every remote corner of the county, have 
been covered with vehicles loaded with voters, 
barouches, curricles, gigs, flying wagons, and 
military cars with eight horses, crowded 
sometimes with forty voters, have been 
scouring the country, feaving not the slight- 
est chance for the quiet traveler to urge his 
humble journey, or find a chair at an inn to 
sit down upon." 

During the closing days of the contest, 
Mr. Wilberforce was withdrawn from it by 
an attack of illness which confined him to his 


room. The rumor that he was dead was now 
circulated, but, notwithstanding this, as well 
as other ruiiiors, he was found in the ascend- 
ancy, and once more declared member for 

Seated in Parliament, business engrossed 
his attention. He complains of the "de- 
bates " as " poor compared with former 
times/' He had himself entered so young 
upon the public service, that though still in 
life's prime, his earliest associates had passed 
away. He missed the great men of a former 
day. Burke and Pitt and Fox — all were 
gone. " There is no man now," hq adds, " to 
take the lead like Pitt. Yet Percival im- 
proves, and Canning* is extremely clever/' 
Of the prime-minister he says, after alluding 
to his suavity and kindness, in contrast with 
the rough churlishness of another, " I believe 
him (Percival) to be a man of ^n undaunted 
spirit, but his modesty prevents him from 
taking that high tone, which at such a time 


as this, rendered Pitt so equal to the emer- 

One thought of Christian love readily ex- 
pands itself into another, and still another, 
and accordingly we find the advocate for the 
slaves of the Guinea Coast, and the millions 
of Asiatics, seeking sustenance for a handful 
of Moravian converts who dwelt among the 
ice-cliffs of Greenland, nor resting till he had 
procured " the dispatch of vessels on this er- 
rand of mercy." Now he is deeply interested 
in a " bill for the reduction of capital punish- 
ments," and now " off early to London to the 
war-office, about the boy Nowell, unlawfully 
recruited,", and again to the colonial office 
about Marsden and a poor woman." Alive 
to every call of sorrow, the counselor and 
helper of the distressed, he won for himself 
the title of "Attorney General for the un- 
protected and friendless." Of his habits of 
perseverance, when he had undertaken an 
object of justice or benevolence, we find the 
testimony of one of the heads of the colonial 


office, whom he had been compelled to weary 
with demands of this nature. Alluding to 
the general opinion that Mr. Wilberforce was 
possessed of a "gentle, yielding character/' he 
intimates that the whole world is mistaken 
in its estimate, declaring that he has found 
him on the contrary to be " obstinate" to the 
very last degree. This secret of perseverance 
when pressed by obstacles may be found 
compressed into a line. Finding himself at 
the head of a minority in the House, on one 
of these questions affecting the public morals, 
he writes of the " parties — ours most re- 
spectable, theirs most numerous ; so much so 
that it is painful to persevere, but we must 
please God and assert his cause' 3 

The value attached by Mr. Wilberfore to 
the rest of the Sabbath, his care to preserve 
the day sacred from the intrusions of busi- 
ness, his grief when interruptions broke in 
upon his usual habits, can not fail to strike 

the most careless observer of his course. 



By this he was helped to preserve an un- 
ruffled spirit amid scenes of intense and pro- 
longed excitement. The fact that he was 
able every seventh day to disengage his mind 
from the turmoils of public life, he speaks of 
as a great antidote to its temptations. This 
influx of better thoughts at those seasons 
doubtless exerted a great influence upon 
other days. Continually we find in his diary 
tributes of thanksgiving for the Sabbath. 
The melancholy end of another eminent pub- 
lic man, his evident insanity and suicide, a 
few years after this time, were attributed to 
" wear and tear of mind." " It is very curi- 
ous/' writes Mr. Wilberforce, with reference 
to this, " to hear the newspapers speaking of 
incessant application to business, forgetting 
that by the weekly admission of a day of rest, 
which our Maker has graciously enjoined, our 
faculties would be preserved from this inces- 
sant strain." 

The mention of this last circumstance has 


carried us forward in our narrative, and we 
hasten to return. 

The meeting of Parliament, in the winter 
of 1808, was put off from Monday to Thurs- 
day of the same week, the prime-minister 
willingly acceeding to the suggestion of Mr. 
Wilberforce, that from the first arrangement 
a large amount of Sunday traveling must 
necessarily ensue. With a noble grace that 
deserved a better fate, Mr. Percival replied to 
the remonstrance, regretting that the cir- 
cumstance had failed to attract his own at- 

On the third of May of the same year a 
most grateful sight was presented in the an- 
niversary of the Bible Society. With ex- 
uberant joy does Mr. Wilberforce speak of 
the spectacle of " five or six hundred people 
of all sects and parties, with one heart, and 
face, and tongue." 

But this was but a temporary calm amid a 
storm. The sweet charities of life must not 


consume tlie days of a servant of the public, 
for commotions are still threatening the land. 
War is still abroad, and her tempest shakes 
the ark of the government. u The House of 
Commons has lost the public confidence/' 
wrote Wilberforce. " The times are highly 
alarming. It would be worse to stifle in- 
quiry than to prosecute it. Yet T see that 
the people may be inflamed to madness, or at 
least to the most mischievous excesses and 
measures. may He who rides in the whirl- 
wind direct the storm for our good/' 

The prospect of an American war appeared 
also in the distance. As this gradually grew 
nearer, Mr. Wilberforce assumed a decided 
opposition to whatever tended to such a re- 
sult. In July, 1811, in the closing debate, 
he gave utterance to his feelings : " Deeply, 
sir, do I deplore the gloom which I see 
spreading over the western horizon, and I 
most earnestly trust that we are not to be in- 
volved in the misfortune of a new war, aggra- 
vated by possessing almost the character of a 


civil strife — a war between two nations who 
are the children of the same family, and 
brothers in the same inheritance of common 

At a subsequent session (an inflammation 
of the lungs having deprived him of his usual 
power) he says : "I am wanting my voice 
much, that I may plead the cause of Chris- 
tianity in India, and soften the asperity of 
hostile tempers between Great Britain and 
America. I am strongly disposed to go to 
the House, if Whitehead brings in this mo- 
tion, that I may declare the grief and pain 
with which the very thought of a war 
with America fills my heart. I have often 
thought that we have not enough borne in 
mind that the people of America have great 
influence over their government, and that 
their thinking that a great number of people 
in this country feel for them, might tend to 
allay irritation, even if a war should break 
out." Notwithstanding his inability to use 
his voice, he went on this occasion to the 


House for the first time that; session, and 
spoke for about twenty minutes. 

An event occurred at this period which 
sent a shock through the kingdom — the 
death of the prime-minister, under circum- 
stances of startling horror. " Stopped," 
says Mr. Wilberforce, " to dine at Babing- 
ton's at half-past four. He came in greatly 
agitated, stating that Percival had been 
shot dead in the lobby. We could scarce 
believe it." 

The perpetrator of this most dreadful deed 
seems, as far as we are able to gather, to 
have been laboring under a singular halluci- 
nation. Supposing himself injured by the 
government, he determined on revenge. That 
the minister was the victim was without 

The next Sunday Mr. Wilberforce wrote in 
his journal : " 0, wonderful power of Chris- 
tianity ! Never can it have been seen, since 
our Saviour prayed for his murderers, in a 
more lovely form than in the conduct and 


emotions it has produced in several on 
the occasion of poor dear Percivars death. 
Stephen, who had been at first so much 
overcome by the stroke, had been this 
morning, I found, praying for the wretched 
murderer ; and thinking that his being 
known to be a friend of Percivars might af- 
fect him, he went and devoted himself to 
trying to bring him to repentance. The poor 
creature was much affected, and very humble 
and thankful, but spoke of himself as un- 
fortunate rather than guilty ; and said it was 
a necessary thing. Strange perversion- — no 
malice against Percival. 

u Poor Mrs. Percival, after the firfet, grew 
very moderate and resigned, and with all her 
children knelt down by the body and prayed 
for them, and the murderer's forgiveness/' 

To Mr. Hey he wrote : " Alas ! into what 
times are we thrown ! I can not help think- 
ing I see the source of that savage spirit that 
prevails so much." 

This he attributes to the decay of reverence 


for authority and order, leaving, u where the 
fear of God has no place, the mind to the 
spirit of bad passions. I trust/' he adds, 
"that we are introducing the true remedy, 
indeed, the only remedy of our diseased na- 
ture, by teaching the mass of our people the 
knowledge of the Scriptures. Surely it is an 
indication of the favor of the Almighty, that 
we have been enabled to spread so exten- 
sively the system of education/' The com- 
motions of the times, moreover, he proceeds 
to ascribe to the spread of " seditious publi- 
cations/' The letter continues — 

" It is no small pleasure to me to believe 
that Mr. Percival had an habitual desire to 
please God ; and I doubt not he looked to 
him with unfeigned humiliation, through the 
Kedeemer. It is really an honor to our 
House, that his private virtues were so gen- 
erally recognized among us. Well, my dear 
sir, l there remaineth a rest ;' and pray for me 
and mine, that we may enter into it after the 
short voyage of this tempestuous life/' 


§ amtstic 1 B »• 

"I haye already discovered," said Mr. 
Wilberforce, in a letter to a friend, " that 
children are very acute observers. Often 
when they seem to be playing about the 
room, heedless of all that is going forward, 
it appears afterward that they have heard, 
and remembered, too, the conversation." 
Again, he writes to another friend : " I 
mean to make education my chief object. 
Pray for me, that I may be able to succeed. 
I can truly say I feel my own deficiencies." 
"His efforts," says one, "were aimed at 
opening the mind — creating a spirit of in- 
quiry, and strengthening the powers." Of 
accomplishments which might be exhibited, 

winning a direct return of praise, fostering 



vanity, etc., he was comparatively jealous. 
With watchful eyes, observing the minutest 
tendencies of character, he endeavored to 
lead to the " highest principles of action." 

If the calls of ordinary business may excuse 
a parent from an intimate association with 
his children, surely the responsibilities of 
public life may plead the same exemption. 
Sad, indeed, is it that, in either case, such 
should ever be claimed. For to know chil- 
dren intimately, to watch intelligently their 
springs of thought, may be, to the wisest 
of men, one of the best possible means of 
increasing in wisdom. All that is imparted 
to children returns with redoubled value to 
him who gives. But as the earliest life of 
the child is love, so love must be the medium 
through which he is approached. 

On this ground now we meet the subject 
of this memoir. Not as the Christian legis- 
lator, the eloquent orator, the advocate for 
the rights of man ; but in his home, by the 
fireside, or beneath the spreading trees, or in 


sweet garden-paths, or on tlie Sabbath-day, 
going to the house of God. Still with these 
little companions about him, gay as they are 
with childish mirth, roaming amid scenes of 
beauty, climbing the flowery slopes or resting 
on the green turf, or reciting hymns or favor- 
ite extracts of poetry as they are seated in 
the carriage on their way to church — for even 
in the busiest season the Sabbath, at least, is 
theirs. Absent every hour through the week, 
they long for the appearing of that father at 
its close, and duly are the flowers in the 
little garden-plots hoarded, that they may be 
gathered for a bouquet to greet him on the 
morning of that day of rest. 

If to a tender and overflowing love be 
added a discriminating watchfulness, with 
power to persuade to do what is good, the 
idea of parental influence becomes perfected. 

"He is always afraid of strangers," said 
the nurse of his infant child, naturally enough, 
on one occasion. The expression sank deep 
into the heart of the father. A stranger ! 


was it right or wise or kind for one, by any 
calls of business, by any possible idea of use- 
fulness, to be estranged from his children ? 
No ; to this he will never submit Whatever 
may be the customs of the world, whatever 
the examples by which he may be surrounded, 
he, at least, will know his children — and he 
did. Their ringing shouts of merriment be- 
came music in his ear ; and to promote their 
happiness and direct their minds in paths of 
wisdom and goodness became the choicest 
pleasure of his leisure hours. Pleasant, in- 
deed, is it to follow those favored children in 
their daily walks, for now the recess of Parlia- 
ment sends both parents and children into 
the country. These walks are made to be 
occasions for improvement. What books 
have these boys been reading ? How much 
do they really know of their contents ? 
Hardly will one of them risk the assertion 
that he has read a book, if he has only 
amused himself by running it over. No ; 
for the beloved sharer of these daily rambles 


has a way of talking about the book which 
makes it necessary that the boy should know 
something of it, too, in order to fill his part 
in the conversation. Then as to worthless 
books (lacking either mental or moral power), 
we can fancy they found little favor with this 
watchful parent. 

Then the evening gathering, when Shak- 
speare and Southey were discussed, and the 
presiding genius of the scene lent his own 
silvery voice, giving added life to the tuneful 
pages of the "Lady of the Lake/' Then, 
too, there were serene and more solemn hours 
of Sabbath eventide, when Cowper and the 
old Hebrew bards took the place of lighter 

Then there were those long excursions that 
took the whole day — " Caesar's camp, and 
the cherry-orchard," the dinner eaten in the 
woods, all burdens thrown by ; yet even here, 
some favorite little volume finds its way, 
some cherished passage read aloud at a rest- 
ing-place, and anon the voice of song is heard 



waking its echoes among tlie dim aisles of the 
forest trees. 

u There is no way," remarked Mr. Wilber- 
fore to a friend, "in which children's tem- 
pers are more indicated than in such excur- 
sions." Again : ^ It is of great importance to 
preserve? boys' affections, and prevent them 
from thinking home a dull place." 

To a little daughter he writes : " I am 
much pressed for time to-day ; hut I must 
send an answer, though a short one, to my 
dear girl's highly acceptable letter, for I do 
not consider as a reply the few lines which I 
added to my letter to mamma, two or three 
days ago. While I am rambling about from 
place to place, my heart still keeps its sta- 
tion ; and, strange as it may seem, a certain 
little girl has such a firm hold on my affec- 
tion, that wherever I am, she is continually 
presenting herself to my mind's eye, and 
calling forth the most tender wishes for her 
happiness. The day, I trust, will come when 


she will be able to travel about with me, not 
merely in idea, but in her own person. 
Meanwhile, we should be very thankful for 
having the means of hearing about those we 
love, when we are far removed from them. 
We are now almost two hundred miles asun- 
der, vet I trust B. will be reading this the 
day after to-morrow, at about the same time 
of day at which I am now writing it. I trust 
that all my children, especially the elder 
ones, are more eminently careful when I am' 
away to abstain from all that would give 
mamma pain, and to do whatever will give 
her pleasure, in order to make up to her for 
my absence. May God bless my dear chil- 
dren, and more particularly my dear little 
girl. How ardently do I long to see clear 
and indubitable proofs of your having re- 
ceived that divine grace which we must all 
possess before we can be admitted into the 
heavenly world. In you, and in my other 
children, I am always looking to discover any 
buddings of that fruit of the Spirit which 


this- blessed agent will produce where it really 
operates, just as a gardener looks over his 
fruit-trees from day to day to see whether tke 
peaches and the nectarines are beginning to 
appear. I trust I do discern, now and then, 
a bud in my beloved child's heart. ! 
cherish it, my clearest child, and try to pre- 
vent its becoming nipped or blasted, so as 
not to come to perfection. 

ii Once more, may God bless you. 

" Ever your most affectionate." 

In the next there is a sweet elegance as 
well as tenderness. It is addressed to Mrs. 
Wilberforce, written from home, the mother 
and children being absent : — " I have been 
sitting under the trees reading and writing. 
The only part of the garden which I did not 
enjoy was one to which I went purposely, to 
see how all looked — the children's gardens. 
Even the fullest exuberance of summer beau- 
ties could not supply the want of animal 
life. Barbara's gum-cistus is in high beauty, 


and the roses in full bloom. My own room 
produces something of the same melancholy 
as the children's gardens/' 

This time, however, he consoles himself that 
he is " going to dine at Babington's, to meet 
Bobert Hall/' whose genius and piety he well 
knew how to value. Alluding to the " shy- 
ness " of that celebrated man, he says, " he 
could not bring himself to come to me, 
though hearing that he wished to see me, I 
wrote him a long letter to banish all such 
feelings, and settle about our meeting." 

Writing at one time of an absent son : 
" Mr. B/s last letter suggests some very pain- 
ful fears that — 's temper has been again 

ungoverned. Dear, dear boy ! Though 
writing at the committee-table, with people 
all around me, I can scarce refrain from tears 
while I thus write about him. that he 
would pray earnestly ! How sure I am that 
he would then be blessed with grace, and be 
enabled to make our hearts leap for joy. 


Farewell — a thousand times God bless you 

Again, in a pleasanter vein, to another 
son : 

"Houss of Commons. 

"I take advantage of a dull speech to 
come up stairs and chat a little with my dear 

, though I heartily regret that I alone 

can be the speaker, for I should gladly hear 
my dear boy's voice, and see his countenance. 
Yesterday was the first time of my going to 
Kensington Gore. I had no comfort there, 
but many qualms of emptiness, when you 
were all away, and only vacant places to re- 
mind me of you. I hope Mr. L. told you that 
I had tried to get your watch mended in 
time to go down to you by him, but in vain. 
A broken limb is not so easily repaired, es- 
pecially when it is required that the party 
shall go as he did before. I am sorry to hear 
that the substitute you have is liable to oc- 
casional headaches. I hope you will bear 
this in mind, in your treatment of it, and not 


let it be stunned or stupefied through care- 

Again, to illustrate how little the collisions 
of political life, the fierceness of debate, the 
continued u strife of tongues/' had with him 
power to harden the heart, or even to dim the 
spiritual life, we have the following touching 
incident, from the private memoranda of a 
friend, who was at that time a frequent in- 
mate of his family. At the close of a busy 
day, perhaps after the stormy contests of the 
House of Commons, "between twelve and 
one o'clock he heard that his daughter, who 
was ill, could get no sleep. Coming into her 
room he took her hand, and kneeling down 
by the bed, spoke of the tender shepherd car- 
rying the weak and lame in his bosom to 
warm and cherish them. Then he applied 
this to our blessed Saviour ; spoke of his ten- 
derness and love ; how he would feel for his 
dear suffering child, and conduct her all the 
way she had to go, until he took her from 
this scene of trial and sorrow to a world 


where sighing and sorrow shall flee away — 
a beautiful personification, indicating their 
haste to leave the mansions of the blessed ! 
In this spirit he prayed with her, and never 
left the bed until her spirit was visibly 
soothed and supported/' 

Again, to a son aged thirteen : 

" My Deakest :. — 

" Though it is quite contrary to iny or- 
dinary practice to write letters on a Sunday, 
yet having been unable to prepare a few lines 
for you yesterday, I feel myself warranted, 
by our blessed Saviour's principles and exam- 
ples, even, in the case of the Jewish Sabbath, 
to take up my pen to-day, to meet my dear- 
est boy on his birthday with the assurance 
of his father's tenderest concern for his tem- 
poral and still more for his eternal happiness. 
On this day, especially, my prayers are poured 
forth, that the gracious Father of the spirits 
of all flesh, who has promised that he will 
hear the prayers of them that call upon him. 


may hear my supplications on your behalf, 
that as you have already enjoyed, and still 
enjoy many advantages, which few others 
possess, you may not at length render them 
the cause only of your greater condemna- 

"It makes me tremble, however, some- 
times to reflect on the peculiar degree of your 
responsibility. Yet why should I despond ? 
I know that God will be faithful to his 
promises ; that he will give his Holy Spirit 
to them that ask it with sincerity and earn- 
estness. And will not my dear boy thus 
ask ? While Christ is thus thinking of you, 
will not you think of him ? Between seven 
and eight, especially, I shall imagine you in 
your own little room ; and also between 
twelve and one in the day. I shall retire 
myself into my own room and pray earnestly 
for you. Remember, my dear boy, that we 
do not naturally love God and Christ, and 
desire above all things to please them as we 

ought ; but we must have this love and 



desire before we can be admitted into Heaven. 
My heart is very full. May God bless you ; 
my dearest boy." 

At another time, he writes : 

"I have neither time nof eyesight to-day 
sufficient to send you what, from its size, 
may deserve the name of a letter : but a 
letterling it may be called ; and you know 
the old passage — Inest sua gratia parvis — 
a maxim which, from my not being of 
extravagantly large dimensions, I may be 
supposed to consider a very reasonable prop- 
osition. I am glad to find (and it is quite 
a drop of balm in my heart when I hear 
of my dear boy's going on well) that you 
are setting to work doggedly, as Dr. John- 
used to term it ; but I like neither the 
word nor the idea. I hope my dear boy 
will act from a higher principle than one 
which I have seen in a poor animal in a 
team, when the taje of the wagoner's whip 
has made him resolutely set all his mus- 


cular force in action and pull up a steep as 
if determined to master it. But my dear- 
est will be prompted by a nobler set of 

motives — by a desire of pleasing God and 
showing gratitude to his Saviour, and not 
grieving the Holy Spirit ; of giving pleasure 
to a father and mother, who are watching 
over his progress with tender solicitude." 

For two sons away at school, papers were 
prepared, with directions varying so as to be 
suited to the ages and character of each. 
We give entire the one addressed to the 
younger : 

" Hints for my dear , to be often read 

over with self-examination : 

" 1. Endeavor to bear in mind that you 
will be often tempted to behave to your 
brother not so well as you ought. That you 
may be on your guard against such tempta- 

"2. Kecollect, if you can, what are the 
occasions which have most commonly led you 


to behave ill to your brother, and try to keep 
them in your memory by now and then 
thinking them over ; and when such occa- 
sions are about to occur, whether at play, in 
reading, or wherever else, then be doubly on 
your guard, and try to lift up your heart in 
an ejaculation to God that you may be ena- 
bled to resist the temptation ; and if you do 
resist it, lift up your heart again in thanks- 

"3. Eemember one season of temptation 
will always be when you are at play, espe- 
cially where there are sides, whether you are 
on the same side as or not. 

" 4. Eemember it is not sufficient not to be 
unkind to your brother ; you must be posi- 
tively kind to all, and how much more, then, 
to a brother ! 

" 5. Eemember you will be under a tempt- 
ation to resist unkindly 's disposition to 

command you. If Christ tells us not to 
resent little outrages from any one (see Matt. 
v. 39-44), how much less should you resent 


his commanding you ! Though perhaps not 
quite right in itself, yet an elder brother 
has a right tu some influence from being 

"6. Often reflect that you are both chil- 
dren of the same father and mother ; how 
you have knelt together in prayer ; have 
prayed together as children, and have sat 
round the same table, on a Sunday, in peace 
and love. Place the scene before your mind's 
eye, and recollect how happy mamma and I 
have been to see you all around us good and 

" 7. You are not so lively by nature as he 

is, but be willing always to oblige him by 

playing at proper times, etc., though not 

disposed, of yourself. Nothing more occurs to 

me, except — and this both mamma and I 

desire to press strongly upon you — to be on 

your guard against being out of humor on a 

little raillery, and always to laugh at it ; 

nothing shows good-humor more than taking 

a joke without being fretful or gloomy. 



" May God bless my dearest boy, and ena- 
ble him to profit from the above suggestions 
of his most affectionate father, 


The older brother is cautioned in like man- 
ner, according to his peculiar temptations : — 

" I will specify the times and circumstances 
in which you ought to be on your guard 
against behaving improperly : When you 
have done your own business, or are not 
inclined to do it, beware of interrupting him 
in doing his. When you are with older com- 
panions than yourself, beware of treating him 
less kindly, or with any thing like arrogance. 
When you are in the highest spirits, having 
been at play, or from any other cause, you 
are apt to lose your self-government, and to 
be out of humor on having your inclination 
crossed in any way ; beware, in such circum- 
stances, of being unkind to him." 

When absent at school, every possible 
influence must be brought to bear for their 


good. To Mrs. Wilberforce he writes : " I 

beg you will write occasionally to and 

; their,! sisters also should write to them 

pretty frequently. I assure you, both from 
my own experience and from that of others, 
that at their period of life the frequent recur- 
rence of home associations, and of sisterly 
affection, has a peculiarly happy effect on the 

character and manners. Can you send 

your newspaper after reading it ; he has 
repeatedly asked to have one, and I don't 
like to send him an opposition paper/' 

To a daughter he writes : " I trust that I 
need not assure you that the letter I received 
from you a few days ago gladdened my heart, 
and that not with a transient joy, but with 
solid and permanent satisfaction. It is now 
your business, my dear child, to endeavor to 
strengthen the foundation of all Christian 
graces by learning more habitually to walk 
by faith, and not by sight. Accustom your- 
self to be spiritually-minded, which, as the 
Apostle truly says, is life and peace. Fre- 


quent self-examination is one of the means 
which you will find eminently useful foi 
this end. You would do well to practice it 
in the middle of the day, as well as in the 
morning and evening. A very few moments 
will suffice for a general retrospect of the 
past morning. I have often kept written on 
a small slip of paper a note of my chief beset- 
ting sins, against which it was especially 
necessary that I should be habitually watch- 
ing and guarding, or of the chief Christian 
graces which I wished to cultivate, or of the 
grand truths which I desired to bear in 
remembrance ; and I used tc look over this 
paper at my season for prayer or of self- 
examination. My chief duties and relations 
(such as father, brother, friend, acquaintance, 
master) were down on this paper, and were 
thus kept in constant view. But in using 
this or any other expedient, you will, I am 
sure, remember ever to be looking up for that 
grace which can alone enable us to will or to 
do what is well-pleasing to God. 


" While I rejoice that my dear is 

employed so rationally, so usefully, in a man- 
ner also so pleasing to God, and so happily 
for herself, I cannot but look forward to the 
time of our again meeting and living a little 
quietly in the country, if it may please God, 
with some earnestness of desire. But it is 
right that we should abstain from all aerial 
castle-building, and remember that not only 
the time is short, but even uncertain. We 
know not what a day may bring forth. Let 
us therefore be doing on the day the duties 
of the day, and then leave the future with 
that gracious Being who has declared himself 
faithful to his promises." 

During an excursion in the summer of 
1818, visiting Bydal and Grasmere, he de- 
lighted to point out to his children the beau- 
ties of the scenery, retracing the spots he had 
loved in his earlier days.* "Why should 

* During the journey in gs of this summer, the two sons of . 
Mr. "Wilberforce, rambling in the vicinity of the residence 


you not buy a house here/' asked one of the 
children, "and then we could come here 
every year ?" " I should enjoy it/' was his 
answer, " as much as any one ; but we must 
remember that we are not sent into the 
world merely to enjoy prospects and scenery. 
We have nobler objects of pursuit, We are 
commanded to imitate Him who came not to 
be ministered unto, but to minister. It 
doubles my own enjoyment to see my dear 
children enjoy these scenes with me ; and 
now and then we need rest from severe la- 
bors, and it may be permitted us to luxuriate 
in such lovely spots, but it is fit for us to re- 
turn to duty." Yet increasing years had by 
no means damped the ardor of his enjoyment 
of such scenes. He writes to Mr. Stephen : 
" I quite long to have you with me/' — " Busy 

of Mr. Southey, were desirous of visiting him. But they 
were forbidden to do so by their father. The great poet 
was at that time mourning the loss of a beloved and only 
son. They must not call on him, ''lest seeing lads of your 
age should too painfully remind him of the son he has 


till one. Then on Windermere. Dined in 
the boat, under the lee of the great island. 
Home late, a delightful evening. Walked 
out at night and saw the moon and a flood 
of licrht, from Wordworth's terrace/' The 
youngest of the party could hardly have de- 
lighted in these days more than himself, 
while continually he spoke to them golden 
words of wisdom, and shed around the sun- 
shine of his own temper, mellowed by time, 
but still joyous. 

But where is there on earth a circle so 
lovely or so blessed that sorrow may not 
enter ? where the Spoiler ever turns back 
from his purpose, or lingers hesitatingly 
whether he shall throw his dart ? Two years 
after this a heavy grief fell on them all, cast- 
ing a solemn shadow over the glory of the 
summer days. 

The eldest daughter continued to decay in 
health and strength. As the autumn waned 
she passed awav, breathing her last at the 


close of the year, at the house of Mr. Stephen, 
where she had been carried for medical at- 

"I have been employed/' wrote the af- 
flicted father to a friend, " for a long period 
in attending the sick, and at length the 
dying bed of a justly-beloved grown-up 
daughter. But the pain of our late trial has 
been abundantly mitigated by the assured 
persuasions that she is gone to a better 
world. It would have been delightful, even 
to those who were not so personally interested 
in the scene as ourselves, to have witnessed 
the composure with which, in the prospect of 
speedy dissolution, our dear child, naturally 
of a very timid spirit^ was able to pray that 
her parents might be supported under the 
privation they were about to suffer. I shall 
never forget the tenderness, faith, and love, 
and devotion with which, having desired all 
others to withdraw, she poured forth her last 
audible prayer for herself and us. Sustained 
by an humble hope of the mercies of God 


through her Eedeemer and Intercessor, she 
was enabled to bear her sufferings with pa- 
tience and ,i resignation, and to preserve a 
composure which surprised even herself. On 
the very morning of the last day of her life, 
she had desired a favorite female attendant 
to ask her physician, whether or not there 
was any hope of her recovery, c but if not/ 
she added, 'all is well/ She expired at last 
like a person falling asleep — scarcely a groan, 
and not the least struggle." 

To Mr. Babington he opens, with still more 
of freedom, the feelings called up by this 
event : u There was none of that exultation 
and holy joy which are sometimes manifested 
by dying Christians. But I know not that 
my judgment does not rest with more solid 
confidence on her humble composure and 
consciousness of her own unworthiness, with 
an affectionate casting of herself on her Ee- 
deemer and Intercessor. The day before she 
expired, she sent all out but her mother and 

me, and concluded some declarations of her 



humble hope in the mercies of God through 
Christ, with a beautiful prayer addressed to 
her Saviour. And she had remarked to her 
mother that she had never before understood 
the meaning and value of Christ's interces- 
sion. My dear friend, I must stop — you are 
a father/' And with this family scene, 
mournful, yet reflecting heavenly radiance, 
we close these details. 


In the autumn of 1812, a dissolution of 
Parliament being expected, Mr. Wilberforce 
was again called upon to consider the ques- 
tion of continuing to represent the county of 
Yorkshire. There was not now, as there had 
been five years before, an opposition. Other 
causes prompted his decision. Some of his 
most strongly attached friends, observant of 
the effect of labors so arduous and long- 
continued upon a delicate frame of body, were 
desirous of his release. He himself says : 
" The urgent claims of my children upon 
my thoughts, time, and superintendence, 
strongly enforce my relinquishment. Lord, 
give me wisdom to guide me rightly. I mean 
to spend a day in religious exercises, and to 


make this with my children the great objects 
with God." 

It was not, however, a complete retire- 
ment that was anticipated. The influence 
of a near friend, Lord Calthorp, had secured 
for Mr. Wilberforce a seat in the House, 
where his constant attendance would be less 
necessary, and his weight of labor removed. 
He was returned for the borough of Bramber. 

His resignation was speedily known, and 
produced various feelings. The Yorkshire 
men felt as a loss the retirement of their dis- 
tinguished and " efficient member." " The 
county at large, on the day of nomination, 
recorded solemnly their judgment of his char- 
acter in an enthusiastic vote of their unani- 
mous thanks." His native town of Hull did 
the same. His nearest friends, however, re- 
joiced in his release. 

In the following, he reviews his long and 
singular connection with the county : — 

" Surely if I can not but look back upon 
the circumstances which attended the first 


formation of my connection with the county 
of York, without recognizing the traces of 
providential guidance, neither can I forbear 
to acknowledge the same gracious favor, in 
my having so long continued in my honorable 
station. May I not well wonder that in a 
county accustomed to so much attention from 
its members, so much that was likely to give 
offense should be endured in me, without the 
slightest expression of disapprobation. My 
religious character and habits might alone be 
expected to produce disgust. My never at- 
tending the county races or even the assizes ; 
my never cultivating the personal acquaint- 
ance of the nobility and gentry, (an omission 
which would have been culpable, but for the 
expenditure it would have occasioned of time, 
which I wanted for important purposes,) my 
seldom visiting the county, sometimes not 
going into it for several years together, all 
these might fairly have been expected to 
have alienated from me the good will of the 

freeholders ; yet it never produced this effect, 



and I have every reason to "believe that I 
never should have experienced another oppo- 

Upon his return to London, he set apart a 
day for especial private devotions. " I have 
had serious doubts whether or not it is right 
to do so, when I have so many important 
subjects to consider and so much to do, yet 
the examples as well as the writings of good 
men, and above all the Holy Scriptures (tak- 
ing the precepts which directly treat of 
fasting, and comparing them with others) 
warrant it. N. B. Christ's words about the 
demons, which were expelled only by fasting 
and prayer. Then as to my being now ex- 
tremely occupied. Owen's remark in some 
degree applies (inference from Malachi) that 
we should give G-od if needful our best time. 
Lord, thy blessing can render far more 
than a day's time as nothing in my worldly 
business, and if the main-spring's force be 
strengthened, and its working improved, 


(cleansed from dust and foulness,) surely the 
machine will go better. 

" Let me li)ok over my c grounds for humil- 
iation/ my i company regulations/ How 
sadly apt am I to lose all recollection of 
these, and of keeping my heart when I am in 
society ! Lord, strengthen me with might. 
Let Christ dwell, not merely occasionally 
visit, but dwell in my heart by faith. Let 
me cultivate more an habitual love to God." 

Questions of such importance were now 
engaging the attention of the House of Com- 
mons, that as yet he found little relief from 
the resignation of his former seat. The sub- 
ject of Catholic emancipation was agitating 
the public mind, and on expressing himself 
in favor of that measure, he grieves much 
that in this he differs from his religious 

In 1813 the great question with regard to 
the introduction of Christianity into the East 
Indies, discussed and thrown out in 1793, 
was again brought forward. To advocate the 


claims of conquered India to the gospel was 
now the great work to which Mr. Wilberforce 
applied himself. He endeavored to arouse 
the religious sensibilities of the National 
Church to this great and most appropriate 
work. This was urged in the columns of the 
Christian Observer, where the clergymen of 
the Establishment were especially called upon 
to give their influence to this work. Since 
the carrying of the abolition bill, no more 
absorbing or exciting subject had gained his 
attention. These eiforts were now tending 
to a crisis. " Surely," he wrote to a friend, 
"there can be no doubt that all who are 
zealous in the cause of Christ, will do their 
utmost to enlighten our East India fellow- 

Hitherto the control of the British pos- 
sessions in this matter, as in others, had been 
in the hands of the directors of the East 
India Company, and to improve the charac- 
ter of the natives, by causing them to be in- 
structed in the Christian religion, had by no 


means been regarded as a duty. It was even 
asserted that the attempt to Christianize the 
Hindoos would be fatal to the British rule in 
the vast empire of the East. To a scanty- 
provision for the English residents, the Com- 
pany might consent, but to one that should 
embrace, or by its influence encourage mis- 
sionary efforts, never. The directors, making 
known unequivocally their line of conduct, 
the question at issue became a simple one. 
Shall this power be accorded them for the 
next twenty years as for the last ? How 
this might turn was most uncertain, for 
while the Anglo-Indians contended stoutly 
that a change would be most unsafe, so un- 
tried was the measure advocated by the re- 
ligious party, that to prove its safety and de- 
sirableness was difficult. 

To many of his country correspondents Mr. 
Wilberforce sent letters, urging that petitions 
might be presented. "We have/' he says, 
" exclaimed loudly agakist the proposed 
system of barring out all moral and religious 


light from the East Indies, and declared that 
we were confident the friends of religion, 
morality and humanity, throughout the king- 
dom, would petition on the subject. Now 
you, I trust, will make good our words. You 
petitioned in the case of the slave-trade, and 
those petitions were eminently useful, so they 
would be now/' 

Again he writes : " On the thirteenth, 
early in the city, at the general meeting of 
the Church Missionary Society for Africa and 
the East. Made the report of our deputa- 
tion, and agreed to a petition to both Houses 
for introducing Christianity into India." 

At this time, from his peculiar position 
and the confidence inspired by his religious 
character and accessible way of life, he became 
as a bond of union among Christians of dif- 
ferent views, in communication at once with 
bishops of the national Church and dissenters 
of various names. The religious sense of the 
people was aroused. Petitions began to pour 
in from all quarters. The Methodists, as a 


body, were zealous in the work. The London 
Missionary Society, the principle of the form- 
ation of which sought to unite in one the 
efforts of all Christians, was in vigorous exer- 
cise. The Baptists, having so early solved 
for themselves the practicability of missions 
in the East Indies, could not be backward in 
lending their support in every possible way. 
Carey and his associates had now been nearly 
twenty years on the ground. Their labors 
and their successes witnessed in favor of this 
great cause. They had won, too, the favor 
of the Governor- General of India. But re- 
spect for the learning and character of an 
individual missionary, however valuable in 
the infancy of Christian efforts, in India was 
no pledge for their extension. 

Laid aside temporarily by illness, Mr. Wil- 
berforce writes : " How does this little check 
of sickness impress upon me the duty of 
working while it is day : the night cometh, 
when no man can work ! Let me not take 
an estimate of myself from others, who do not 


know me, but from my own self-knowledge 
and conscience. 0, Lord, let my faith, and 
love be more active, bringing forth more of 
the fruits of the Spirit/' 

Thus he resumed his work. In the great 
contest of the abolition of the slave-trade he 
had powerful helpers. Men of giant mental 
stature and vast political power labored by 
his side. Now the case was otherwise. His 
only resource, comparatively, is in the relig- 
ious conscience of the people. This must be 
brought skillfully to bear upon the work in 
hand. The appeal had not been made in 
vain, and the heads of government entered 
into an arrangement, he says, far u surpassing 
my expectations/' On the following Sunday 
he writes : u Let me express my humiliation 
and my gratitude to God for enabling us to 
agree with government as to the conditions 
of sending out missionaries, and in general as 
to improving, moralizing and Christianizing 
India. I humbly hope God has great designs 


in view for the East, and that they will be 
executed by Great Britain/' 

Brit the conflict was not yet over. These 
arrangements of government, Parliament 
might reject, and moreover "in the House 
of Commons lay the strength of the Anglo- 
Indian party." On the twenty-second of 
June, says the biographer of Wilberforce, 
" he was at his post, with his mind full of his 
subject. Never did he speak with greater 
power, or produce more impression. Twenty 
years before, he had appeared in the same 
place the eloquent advocate of this same 
cause. He had, beyond all expectation, been 
spared to lead the onset in a new engage- 
ment." " He who knows my heart/' he said ? 
in closing his account of the Hindoo supersti- 
tions, " knows that I have not drawn this 
melancholy picture to exult over its black- 
ness. It is with grief and shame I own it, 
mourning, sir, over my own country, which, 
for fifty years and more, has left so many 

millions of our fellow-creatures in this state 



of misery and vice. I am not bringing a bill 
of indictment against the Indian race ; but I 
have lived long enough to learn ' that flatter- 
ers are not friends/ I am willing to allow 
their present degradation, that I may raise 
them to a higher level. 

" "We carried it," he adds, " about eighty- 
nine to thirty-six — beyond all hope. I heard 
afterward that many good men had been 
praying for us all night. ! what cause for 
thankfulness, yet almost intoxicated with suc- 

The petitions that " loaded the table," to 
the number of nine hundred, could not but 
produce an impression. 

Full justice was done in this noble and 
most effective burst of eloquence to the mis- 
sionaries earliest in the field. They had been 
called " Anabaptists and fanatics," and rail- 
lery had exhausted itself in endeavoring to 
cast ridicule upon the cobbler of Nottingham- 
shire. The vindication of Wilberforce was 
complete, and clothed upon with the living 


graces of his own genius. " I do not know," 
he said, " a finer instance of the moral sub- 
lime than that a poor cobbler, working in his 
stall, should conceive the idea of converting 
the Hindoos to Christianity. Yet such was 
Dr. Carey. Milton's planning his Paradise 
Lost in his old age and blindness was nothing 
to it." 

There were those before him, the orator of 
the day well knew, who had no eyes for the 
sublimity of this view ; and for them he had 
reserved another argument. Coldly they lis- 
tened to the tale of the Christ-like love that 
dwelt in the heart of the poor man — what 
shall move th<exn ? The fact is uttered that 
when arrived in India and appointed by Lord 
Wellesly to an honorable station, with a sal- 
ary of more than a thousand pounds, Dr. 
Carey made this all over to the general 
objects of the mission. They are electrified ! 

" It seemed the only thing that moved 
them," said the indignant pleader for India. 

Among those who aided in furnishing facts 


concerning the Serampore Mission, before all 
others, was the Rev. Andrew Fuller. 

It. may not be known to the admirers of 
this remarkable man and devoted Christian 
minister, that on the occasion of this debate 
he but narrowly escaped a challenge to fight. 
Dr. Carey had been ferociously attacked by a 
member of the House of Commons. Mr. 
Fuller had interposed in writing. With a 
manner which could not be mistaken, the no- 
torious duelist inquired, " Pray, Mr. Wilber- 
force, do you know a Mr. Andrew Fuller, who 
has written to me to retract the statement 
which I made with reference to Dr. Carey ?-*■ 
u Yes, I know him perfectly/' replied Wil- 
berforce, to whose quick sense of the ludicrous 
the wasted wrath of the other could not fail 
fail to appeal ; adding, with a smile, " You 
can do nothing with him in your way : he is 
a respectable Baptist minister at Kettering/' 

" In due time/' he adds, "there came from 
India a:i authoritative contradiction of the 
slander, For two whole years did I take it 


in my pocket to the House of Commons to 
read it to the House when the author of the 
accusation should be present/' 

This opportunity it seems never occurred, 
for the intended antagonist of Mr. Fuller 
absented himself from the occasion and the 

When we recall the difficulties of the first 
missionaries to India, the uncertain tenure 
by which they held the right to preach the 
Gospel to the natives, or even to remain in 
the country, we can not . but attach a high 
value to the labors here recorded. The 
changed action of the East India government 
need not be dwelt upon in this work. But 
even the American missionary of the present 
day, as he hails the protection of the British 
flag, and walks in peace beneath its shadow, 
may look back gratefully to the struggle of 
that early period to open the way for the 
entrance of the Gospel to the vast realms of 
the East, 



# f t « t C ft &n g * s . 

Since tlie triumphant passage of the Aboli- 
tion Bill, in 1807, which made the slave- 
trade a crime in the eye of British law, Mr. 
Wilherforce had turned his attention to the 
Continental powers of Europe. To induce 
them, in this matter, to cooperate with Eng- 
land, and thus render abolition universal, was 
the object of his efforts. While the subject 
was yet in agitation, before the actual pas- 
sage of the bill, when success appeared to 
be in view, the subject of a negotiation with 
foreign powers was brought forward. An 
address to the king, praying him to invite the 
cooperation of the sovereigns of Europe, was 
voted by the House of Commons. 

Mr. Wilberforce, in a letter addressed to 


the Emperor of Kussia, forcibly presented 
this subject. 

In the memorable year 1814, when Bona- 
parte abdicated his dominions, and peace was 
restored to Europe, it was matter of much 
disappointment to the friends of the slave, 
that in the treaty of peace, universal abol- 
ition had not been secured. In the loud 
congratulations that greeted Lord Castle- 
reagh on his entrance into the House of 
Commons, bearing in his hand a copy of the 
treaty just concluded at Paris, Mr. Wilber- 
force was silent. Seizing the first favorable 
moment — "I can assure my noble friend/' 
he exclaimed, " that if I have not been able 
to concur in the salutations with which he 
has been welcomed on his return, it is not 
from any want of personal cordiality/' After 
calling the attention of the House to the 
slave trade among the French and Dutch 
people, he continued : " When I consider the 
miseries that we are now about to renew, is 


it possible to regard them without the deep- 
est emotions of sorrow ? My noble friend 
must allow for my extreme regret, if, when 
at length, after a contest of so many years, I 
had seemed to myself in possession of the 
great object of my life — if then, when the cup 
is at my lips, it is rudely dashed from them, 
for a term of years at least, if not forever." 
The number of distinguished foreigners, 
who during this year visited London, was re- 
markable. Among these was the Emperor 
of Eussia. Mr. Wilberforce was informed 
that an interview was desired, and shortly 
afterward received a summons to that effect. 
He writes in his Journal : " Got up by half 
past six, that I might pray for a blessing 
upon the interview." He had previously 
heard that Alexander had charged himself 
with abolition in a Congress of Nations. This 
interview was followed by others. "What 
could be done," said the Emperor, with regard 
to the treaty of peace, " when your own em* 
bassador gave way ?" 


Of the results of the favor expressed by the 
Emperor, hopes were entertained by Mr. 
Wilberforce and others in behalf of the great 
cause. Having already, through Cardinal 
G-onsalvi, attempted to influence the councils 
of Kome, he next addressed letters to the 
literati of Europe. Humboldt, Sisniondi, 
Chateaubriand, and Madame de Stael were 
addressed. ' With the last named of these 
celebrated persons he had become acquainted 
some time before in London. His chief effort 
was, however, a printed letter to Talleyrand, 
which was to contain the whole matter in a 
small compass, and was regarded as a mani- 
festo of the sentiments of the friends of uni- 
versal abolition. The sage of the French 
court replied, at first, with elegant and cour- 
teous sentiments expressed at large ; after- 
ward, in a brief letter with more decided 
favor. Much was hoped by the friends of the 
cause from these widely-spread influences. 
" I almost anticipate/' wrote one, " more 
good from these new efforts of our friends^ 


than even from the abolition voted here ; and 
the name of Wilberforce has attained new 
celebrity, and his character and general opin- 
ions a degree of weight, which perhaps no pri- 
vate individual, not invested with office, ever 
possessed. My delight has consisted much in 
observing his Christian simplicity, and the 
general uniformity in his character and con- 
duct, amid the multitude of compliments 
from the great, made on the part of some 
with much feeling. He is, indeed, in his 
usual bustle, but he reminds me, neverthe- 
less, of that saying which was applied to Fox, 
that the greatest objects or the most heavy 
load of business, never seemed to put him 
into that petty tumult which is the common 
mark of inferior men/'' 

Notwithstanding this state of encouraged 
hope, the work proceeded slowly. A letter 
written to Mr. Wilberforce by Mr. Brougham 
at this time, touches upon the matter. 

u Ton may easily believe/'' he says, " that 
I have thought of nothing but the treaty for 

brougham's letter. 263 

two days past, and have each moment found 
out new cause for vexation and indignation, 
A fine return truly, and a pure sense of the 
benefits they have received, those base Bour- 
bons are evincing ! 

"As for Alexander and the other allies, 
they may cheaply enough be abolitionists, 
having not one nesro — as I doubt not the 
Bourbons are all for abolishing villenage. 
This liberality at other people's expense is, I 
believe, the whole amount of the magna- 
nimity we hear so much of. However, we 
must try such means rather than despair ; 
and we ought to think betimes how to set 
about it. But in truth one is disheartened 
and sick of men, and above all of rulers/' 

These vexing negotiations were closed in a 
manner little expected. What the restored 
Bourbon had failed to accomplish, was done 
by another and stronger hand. From the 
retirement of Elba, an eagle eye watched the 
movements of the sovereigns, and the po- 


sition of England, on this question. Bona- 
parte, upon his escape and brief restoration 
to power ; among other acts of a popular kind, 
decreed the abolition of slavery in the French 
dominions. Nor when he fell was this al- 
lowed to be repealed. 

Great as had been the work accomplished 
by the British Parliament, the friends of the 
African could not conceal from themselves, 
that all that had been expected was not yet 
attained. Particularly was this true with re- 
gard to the condition of those already in 
bondage. The improvement that would en- 
sue from cutting off the supplies, had not 
appeared. Those supplies, in fact, continued. 
The slave ship, despite the law, still cast its 
shadow in the Indian seas. To meet the 
demands of the occasion, the " Bill for the 
Kegistry of Negroes " was, by Mr. Wilberforce, 
brought into Parliament. This movement 
was the first restraint laid upon the exercise 
of irresponsible power in the hands of the 
West Indian master. Mild as it appeared, it 


was the first of a series of efforts which finally 
resulted in emancipation. The friends of this 
measure had; taken a larger stride in the work 
before them than they were themselves fully 
aware. A storm of opposition was aroused. 
Perhaps never in his whole life before had Mr. 
Wilberforce been the object of such a tumult 
of calumny. These attacks upon his charac- 
ter were both violent and long continued. 
That he could never be aroused to bitterness 
of feeling, is to be attributed to no lack of 
aggravated ill-will on the part of his enemies. 
It is to be sought elsewhere. At times he 
expressed his fears lest they "occupy the 
public mind, and so prejudice the great 
cause/' On one occasion he regrets that he 
had not answered an accuser in print. With 
a touch of pleasantry, at another time, he told 
the House of Commons, " that if these things 
were true, he ought to have been hanged 
thirty years ago." Again he says, "I get 
more and more to disrelish these brawlings, 

and to be less touchy as to my character, 



This I fear is chieily from advancing years 
and quiescence ; something from the decay of 
natural spirits, and some little I hope from 
the growing indifference to human estima- 
tion, and from an increased value for peace 
and love. But it is a clear duty to prevent 
our good from being evil spoken of, when we 
can do this by a fair and calm defense/' 

It was, however, a striking testimony to 
the purity of his life, and the high principles 
by which he was habitually governed, that, 
on one occasion was awarded him. When 
the sarcasm of an opponent was uttered on 
"the honorable and the religious member," 
the feeling expressed was as though some- 
thing sacred had been invaded. Cries of 
" order" resounded from every part of the 
House. For thirty years had his endeavor 
been to act, in his position, upon Christian 
principles, and this sudden and impulsive tri- 
bute showed the degree of estimation in 
which he was held. 

TLe year 1815 was marked by the death 


of Henry Thornton. Of him Mr. Wilberforce 
remarked, "he was one of my oldest, kindest, 
most intimate, and valuable friends. To me, 
who used to consult him on all public ques- 
tions, and who profited so often from the ex- 
traordinary superiority of his understanding, 
the loss is almost irreparable. But it is the 
will of the Almighty, and it becomes us to 
submit. It is the ordination of infinite wis- 
dom and goodness, and it becomes us to say, 
c Thy will be done/ ** 

A week only had passed, when he records, 
in a letter to Hannah More, the death of an- 
other — one of her friends as well as his — 
whom he speaks of as only less dear (than 
Thornton) ; as of more recent acquisition ; 
one from whom, from the developments <j£ 
genius and piety which he had made, much 
was expected — John Bowdler. 

It was now a time of great discontent and 
" sad rioting" among the people. Excite- 
ment was high, for the question of the Corn 
Laws was before the House. Mr. Wilber- 


force, in making up liis mind to speak on 
the subject, remarks in his Journal, " I see 
people wonder I do not speak one way or the 
other. It will be said, he professes to trust 
in God's protection, but he would not venture 
any thing. Then I shall have religious 
questions and moral questions, to which my 
speaking will conciliate, and, contra, my si- 
lence strongly indispose men. Besides, it is 
only fair to the government, when I really 
think them right to say so, as an independ- 
ent man, not liable to the imputation of 
party bias, corrupt agreement with landed 
interest, &c. ; so I prepared this morning, 
and spoke, and though I lost my notes, and 
forgot much I meant to say, I gave satisfac- 

A person formerly in his employ was hoot- 
ed after, the next morning, in Co vent Gar- 
den market. a So your old master has spoken 
on the Corn Bill ! His house shall pay for 
it!" Mrs. Wilberforce having been advised 
to remove from the premises, four or five sol- 


diers were placed there, that their presence 
might prevent the approach of violence. 

Some weejks after this, he joined his family 
at the village of Taplow, and spent a Sab- 
bath. It was now the 18th of June, and the 
country in the full bloom of summer. The 
quiet beauty of the scene filled his heart with 
joy. " He seemed to shake off with delight 
the dust and bustle of the crowded city, and 
as he walked up the rising street of the vil- 
lage, on his way to the old church of Tap- 
low, he called on all around him to rejoice in 
the visible goodness of his God ; and ' per- 
haps/ he said to his children, 6 at this very 
moment, when we are walking thus in peace 
to the house of God, our brave fellows may 
be fighting hard in Belgium/ " 

On that very Sunday was fought the battle 
of Waterloo ! This he learned on his return 
to London. 

Mr. Wilberforce had experienced this yeai 
sad bereavements^ in the removal of deai 



friends ; but a nearer affliction awaited him 
— the death of his only sister, Mrs. Stephen. 

To the intimate and peculiar sympathy be- 
tween these two, we have referred in the 
earlier pages of this volume. He alludes 
often to the tenderness of her affection for 
him. This was blended with the deepest ad- 
miration of his character and public labors. 
Her own religious life had been quickened by 
the influence of his piety, and fostered, in its 
earlier stages, by his loving care. At times a 
peculiar tenderness and scrupulousness of 
spirit, joined to delicate health, had made her 
an object of solicitude, and we find him, in 
the earlier periods of his life, devoting to her 
his time and attentions. Her death was an 
unexpected blow. He had left her only a 
few weeks before, and rejoiced "to see her 
better than she had been for a long time 
past." With a heavy heart he set off for the 
residence of his brother-in-law. 

" On arriving, I learned that my sister had 
died yesterday at four o'clock. Poor Stephen 


much affected ! Liable to strong paroxysms, 
at other times calm and pretty cheerful. I 
prayed by nly dear sister's body, and with the 
face uncovered. Its fixedness very awful. I 
sat all the evening engaging Stephen, while 
the coffin was adjusting below. How affect- 
ing all these things ! how little does the im- 
mortal spirit regard it ! Looking at night, till 
near two o'clock this morning, over my dear 
sister's letters — many to and from myself, 
when she and I were first earnest in religion." 
" Our separation from each other just at 
this time," he writes to a friend, " if it pro- 
duces some pain, yet reminds us of the call 
we have for gratitude to the Father of mer- 
cies, who has so long spared us to each other. 
How can I but feel this, when our dear 
friend's solitary situation is so forcibly im- 
pressed on me ! I, indeed, have lost a most 
affectionate sister ; one, of whom I can truly 
say, that I believe there never was on earth a 
more truly attached, generous, and faithful 
friend to a brother, who, though I hope not 


insensible to her value, saw but little of her 
to maintain her affection, and of whom, alas ! 
I could say much that might reasonably have 
abated the force and cooled the warmth of 
her affections/' 

" How affecting is it to leave the person we 
have known all our lives, on whom we should 
have been afraid to let the wind blow too 
roughly, to leave her in the cold ground 
alone ! This quite strikes my imagination on 
such occasions. But there is another thin^ 
that has impressed itself in the present in- 
stance much more powerfully than in any 
other I ever remember. I mean, in contem- 
plating the face of our dead friend, to ob- 
serve the fixed immoveableness of the fea- 
tures. Perhaps it struck me more in my sis- 
ter's case, because her countenance owed more 
of the effect it produced to the play of features 
than to their formation. I could not get rid 
of the effect produced on me, by the stiff and 
cold fixedness, for a long time. But ! it is 
the spirit, tbi inhabitant of the earthly tene- 


ment, not the tenement itself, which was the 
real object of our affection. How unspeak- 
ably valuable are the Christian doctrines and 
hopes in such circumstances as ours ! We 
should not care much, if we believed that the 
object of our tender regard had gone a few 
days before us a journey we ourselves should 
travel ; especially if we knew that the jour- 
ney's end was to be a lasting abode of perfect 
happiness. Now, blessed be God, this is after 
all not an illustration. It is the reality. 
The only drawback with me here, is that I 
have much to do for God, and the self-re- 
proach for not having done it." 

We must suppose here that what he had 
actually been permitted to do, in serving his 
generation, looked little by reason of the con- 
trasted largeness of desire which filled his 
heart. It certainly was not by comparing his 
own services with those of others that this 
sense of deficiency was awakened ; for where 
could he find one whose works of usefulness 
so abounded as his own ? 


Ill general, however, at this period of lis 
life he gives vent to his emotions in words of 
thankful praise. He seems to have entered 
upon that phase of the Christian life which is 
marked by a holy, all-predominating love. 
Here was the secret of the harmlessness of 
those shafts of calumny that fell so thickly 
around his way. " All natural objects round 
him/' says his biographer, " had become the 
symbols of the presence and love of his heav- 
enly Father/' 

" I was walking with him in his verandah," 
says a friend, " the year before, watching for 
the opening of a night-blowing cereus. As 
we stood in eager expectation, it suddenly 
burst wide open before us. c It reminds me/ 
said he, as we admired its beauty, 'of the 
dispensations of the divine Providence first 
breaking on the glorified eye, when they shall 
fully unfold to the view, and appear as beau- 
tiful as they are complete/ " 

"For myself/' he says, when to his own 
family he unvailed his heart, "I can truly 


say that scarcely any thing has at times given 
me more pleasure th&n the consciousness of 
living, as it were, in an atmosphere of love ; 
and heaven has itself appeared delightful in 
that very character of being a place in which 
not only every one would love his brethren, 
but in which every one would be assured that 
his brother loved him ; and thus that all was 
mutual kindness and harmony, without one 
discordant jarring : all sweetness, without the 
slightest acescency." 

The following paragraph, which we quote 
from the pen of his biographer, beautifully 
illustrates his habits and character at this 
time. Eeferring to the extract just made, 
he says : " There was no obtrusive display of 
these affections. True Christian joy is for the 
most part a secret as well as a serene thing. 
The full depth of his feelings was hidden even 
from his own family. c I am never affected to 
tears/ he says, more than once, ' except when 
I am alone/ A stranger might have noticed 
little else than that he w r as more uniformly 


cheerful than most men of his time of life. 
Closer observation showed a vein of Christian 
feeling mingling with and purifying the natu- 
ral flow of a most happy temper ; while those 
who lived most continually with him could 
trace distinctly in his tempered sorrows, and 
sustained and almost child-like gladness of 
heart, the continual presence of that c peace 
which the world can neither give nor take 
away/ The pages of his later Journal are full 
of hursts of joy and thankfulness ; and with 
his children and his chosen friends, his full 
heart welled out ever in the same blessed 
strains ; he seemed too happy not to express 
his happiness ; his c song was ever of the lov- 
ing-kindness of the Lord/ " 

The following illustration of this same 
spirit of overflowing love is furnished by a 
friend who accompanied him into the coun- 
try : A large number of friends were gathered 
in a festive scene — a school fete. " He/' pro- 
ceeds the memorandum, u was all sunshine at 
such times, from principle as well as habit 


( It is/ he would say, I a fault to be silent ; 
every one is bound to present his contribution 
to the conjmon stock of conversation and 
enjoyment / and wherever the group was 
most crowded and attentive, he was sure to 
be found its center. From all this he stole 
away/' proceeds the same narrator, "and 
asked me to walk with him down the village. 
It was to visit a poor woman, of whom he had 
heard as in a deep decline. He found out the 
sick-room, and sat down by the bed, and be- 
gan to speak to her of the love of God, which 
should dwell in his children's hearts. *Ask 
yourself, then, Do you love Him ? "We know 
how love to our fellow-creatures acts : how it 
makes us try to please them, bear for their 
sakes unpleasant or unkind things, pain or 
hard words, with patience ; now does your 
love to God act in this way ? Do you bear 
patiently what he sends you, because he sends 
it ? It is no proof of love to God to do what 
pleases us : to come, for instance, as I have 

done to-day, to see all those dear children in 



the company of those I love. But if yon sub- 
mit to your illness, and give up your will to 
God's will ; if you will seek to listen to His 
voice in affliction ; if you are patient under 
your sufferings, and gentle to those about 
you, this will indeed be a proof of love to 
God. And then think of the happy conse- 
quence.. He will come and abide with you, 
and bring such peace and joy into your heart 
as nothing else can bestow. The Comforter 
will come and dwell with you, not pay you a 
short visit, as I am paying to my friends here, 
but dwell with you, and never leave you. 
Now this is the joy I wish for you/ And 
then he knelt down and asked of God to com- 
fort and support her, and after all her suffer- 
ings bring her to a world of peace and joy, 
where the former things shall have passed away. 
c It is delightful/ said he, as we returned, c to 
visit such a bed of sickness, to be able to take 
one ray of joy from the full sunshine of the 
social circle to gill her sick-room. It has 
been one of the happiest days I ever spent/ " 


€\ti$tB$\t tti fRfitK 

" I have often wished/' wrote Mr. Wilber- 
force to one of his sons, toward the close of 
his life, " to do a little justice to poor Chris- 
tophe. I possess letters from him which 
would do him great honor. Perhaps they 
may form a chapter, if any memoranda of my 
own life and times are ever put together/' 

Possibly some one may inquire, " And who 
was Christophe ?" x He was no other than the 
King of Hayti, enjoying at that time the 
exercise of royal power over the inhabitants 
of that beautiful island of the tropic seas. 
He is declared by Mr. Wilberforce to have 
been truly " a great man/' In the eventful 
history of St. Domingo, his name has a 
share. Christophe was born a slave. Eaised 


by the force of liis own genius, aided by con- 
curring events, to absolute power, lie was 
desirous of using that power to promote 
the highest good of the people. In accom- 
plishing this work he sought the aid and 
advice of the English advocate for African 
freedom. The correspondence that ensued 
was lengthened, and of singular interest. To 
change the habits of the people, to enlighten 
them by means of schools and colleges, and 
the introduction of English literature, and 
finally of the English language and religion, 
were the favorite projects of the monarch. 
For these purposes he not only requested direc- 
tion, but remitted considerable sums of money. 
He wished to change the character of the 
people, declaring, in forcible language, of the 
French habits and prevalent customs, that 
" the Haytians must have nothing in common 
with a nation from whom they had suffered 
so much/' 

" He has requested me," wrote Wilberforce 
to his friend Stephen, u to get for him seven 


schoolmasters, a tutor for his son, and seven 
different professors for a royal college which 
he intends' to found. Among these are a 
classical professor, a medical, a mathematical, 
and a pharmaceutical chemist." 

Mr. Wilberforce entered warmly into these 
views, " How I wish," he wrote to Mr. Mac- 
aulay, " that I were not too old, and you not 
too busy to go. It would he a noble under- 
taking, to be sowing in such a soil the seeds 
of Christian and moral improvement, and to 
be laying also the foundation of all kinds of 
social and domestic institutions, habits and 
manners." " It produces quite a youthful 
glow through my whole frame," he writes to 
another, a to witness before I die, in this, and 
so many other instances, the streaks of moral 
and religious light illuminating the horizon, 
and, though now but the dawning of the day, 
cheering us with hopes of their meridian glo- 

These feelings were warmly shared. " Were 

I five-and-twenty," Sir Joseph Banks wrote 



to hirn, asking him for Haytian information, 
a as I was when I embarked with Captain 
Cook, I am very sure that I should not lose a 
day in embarking for Hayti. To see a set of 
human beings emerging from slavery, and 
making most rapid strides toward the per- 
fection of civilization, must, I think, be the 
most delightful of all food for contempla- 

But to find the right persons for Hayti 
was not an easy thing. It was no light ser- 
vice that had been undertaken. " I have 
succeeded," he writes, " in finding a physi- 
cian, but I still want a surgeon, and much 
more a divine. What would I give for a 
clergyman, who should be just such as I 
could approve." 

The attention of Christophe had been call- 
ed, in the course of the correspondence, to 
the education of the women of Hayti. Their 
elevation and refinement would be urged by 
Mr. Wilberforce, next to Christianity, the 
most powerful means of improving the peo- 


pie. With these views Christophe heartily 
concurred, and teachers were provided for 
this end. That persons for these various 
offices were chosen with the greatest care, we 
have reason to believe. A shrewd observer 
of character, Mr. Wilberforce at one time 
records his receiving at his house the volun- 
teers for Hayti, not merely for a transient in- 
terview, but that u they might stay with me 
a few days, and enable me the better to take 
their dimensions." 

Notwithstanding all the caution that could 
be used in selecting these, for the various de- 
partments of labor, some proved unworthy 
and others unsuitable. Some were unequal 
to the trial of sustaining a proper character 
in a community so degraded, that vice was 
no way disgraceful ; and others of better 
principles, by their desponding letters in- 
creased the burden of care. These seem, 
however, to have been regarded as by no 
means affording ground for discouragement. 
The hopeful spirit of Wilberforce still perse- 


vered strongly in the work of enlightening 
the subjects of Hayti. 

The secret spring of these labors, and in- 
deed of his abolition efforts also, may be 
found in a letter to Mr. Stephen, written 
some years before, under a different aspect of 
affairs, but not on that account losing its 
value. " I greatly fear/' he writes. " that if 
Hayti gives to France a colonial monopoly, 
in return for the recognition of its independ- 
ence, that all commerce with us will be ex- 
cluded, and with it our best hopes of intro- 
ducing true religion into the island. Now, I 
will frankly own to you, that to introduce re- 
ligion appears to me the greatest of all bene- 
fits. I blame myself for not having earlier 
stated to you my principles on this head. It 
has arisen from a want of reflection, for my 
principles have been always the same. God 
grant we may not hinder the gospel of Christ. 
! remember that the salvation of one soul 
is of more worth than the mere temporal 
happiness of thousands, or even millions. In 


this I well know that you agree with me en- 

"I am occupied, I trust/' he says at an- 
other time, " in preparing an entrance into 
Africa for the Gospel of Christ. I must say 
that I account it one of the greatest of the 
many and great mercies and favors of the 
Almighty (oh how many and how great !) 
that his Providence connected me with this 
good cause." 

We return now to Haytian affairs. After 
what has been stated of these labors, it is not 
strange to find entries in his diary like this : 
" I have been excessively busy of late, and in 
the line of duty. But my devotional time 
has been too much broken in upon ; and this 
must not be. Much harassed by applications 
for recommendations to Hayti, by people from 
whom I know nothing." The machinery of 
these movements had become complicated, 
and persons were to be chosen for all grades 
of labor and from all ranks of life, from pro- 


fessors for the royal college, tutors and gov- 
ernesses for the royal household, to "two 
ploughmen and their ploughs and families." 

A sudden stop was put to all these labors 
by the death of Christophe. He alone had 
set these plans for improvement on foot, and 
with him they fell to the ground. "I can 
not mention Hayti," writes Mr. Wilberforce, 
who was much distressed at the event, 
" without interposing a word concerning this 
same tyrant, as, now that he is fallen, it is 
the fashion to call Christophe. If he did de- 
serve that name, then it is compatible with 
the warmest desire in a sovereign for the im- 
provement and happiness of his people ; and 
I must also add, that all the authentic ac- 
counts I ever heard of him have led me to 
believe that he was really a great man, with 
but few infirmities. Nevertheless, I am not 
much surprised at what has taken place, for 
I must confess that the yoke of government 
might probably press heavily upon his people, 
and that he might carry his whole system, 


botli in introducing improvements and in re- 
forming morals, with too much rigor." " He 
has been charged, as far as I know, with only 
two faults ; one, an over strict enforcement 
of justice ; the other, his being avaricious, 
and heaping together much money in his 
capital. But this was for the purpose of buy- 
ing gunpowder from the Americans, in case 
the French should attack him. He sent me 
over six thousand pounds, to pay schoolmas- 
ters, etc. ; and I remember his giving a man, 
whose conduct he approved, one thousand 
dollars, quite spontaneously. He was a great 
man, intent on the improvement of his peo- 
ple ; but he furnishes a striking instance of 
the truth, that by too earnestly pursuing a 
good object, you directly defeat it." 


fast ftt&Jw ®ffuHi. 

Impaired health, and the effect of long- 
continued labors upon a constitution never 
robust, admonished Mr. Wilberforce that the 
days of his greatest activity were past. Yet 
were his parliamentary labors to be marked 
at their close by new conflicts in that cause 
to which he had given his early strength. 
Gradually had the case of the West Indian 
slaves, and the necessity of improving their 
condition, been, by the efforts of their friends, 
made apparent. In 1823, a decided progress 
was made. The views of the friends of the 
slave had become extended, and emancipa- 
tion was now the end in view. They had 
come to this result, not by any abstract 
theory, but by the necessity of the case, and 


the failure of every other effort of reform. 
The evil plant must be plucked up by the 
roots. To lop the branches ever so carefully, 
had been proved to be of no avail. An ad- 
mirable pamphlet was published, not far from 
this time, by Mr. Clarkson, the old and un- 
wearied friend of the cause, wherein he goes 
into the subject at large. 

The time had, indeed, now arrived when 
that which had been in vain sought from col- 
onial legislation must be won from the Brit- 
ish Parliament. But the voice that formerly 
in trumpet tones had led on the conflict for 
justice and right, was enfeebled with age, 
and broken by reason of infirmity. The work 
must be given to younger hands. Yet se- 
renely clear was the spirit's light within, 
where the presence of God dwelt as in a 
temple. He says of himself : " My lungs are 
affected, and my voice weak, so I am forced 
to keep the house/' " I greatly regret I can 
not go, but I must accustom myself to be 

willing to retire." " A Christian, considering 



himself the servant of God, does his Master's 
business so long as He signifies his will by 
action, and no less by retiring. I hope I 
have been acting on this principle, applying, 
he must increase, but I must decrease to 
other and younger men. And oh, may I be 
enabled to walk by faith, not sight ; and 
then all will be clear and easy and not un- 
pleasant. How cheering is the consideration 
that all events are under the guidance of in- 
finite wisdom and goodness, and that we are 
hastening to a world of secure peace and joy." 

The position he had formerly occupied in 
the House as the acknowledged leader in the 
African cause, he now transferred to T. F. 
Buxton, Esq. With reference to the changed 
aspect of things, he remarks : u God can effect 
his own purposes by his own agents as he 
will. f They also serve who only stand and 
wait ! ? " 

Yet by other means he was still active. 
That the subject must be brought before 
Parliament by no other than himself, was the 


judgment of those interested. He was there- 
fore urged to record and publish his opinions 
on the state of the negro slaves. This he 
did. In March was published his "Appeal 
to Keligion, Justice, and Humanity/' In 
this pamphlet his fervor of spirit was so 
tempered with the wisdom of age, and the 
beautiful candor and the spirit of justice 
which distinguished him, as to carry itself to 
the hearts of those who read, " Its perusal," 
said a West Indian proprietor, "has so af- 
fected me, that should it cost me my whole 
property, I surrender it willingly, that my 
poor negroes may be brought not only to the 
liberty of Europeans, but, especially, to the 
liberty of Christians/' 

At the close of the session of Parliament, 
during which the West Indian subject had 
been fairly opened by Mr. Buxton, Wilber- 
force retired into the country. Again an- 
other sitting called him to London ; but at 
this time his life was endangered from an at- 
tack of inflammation of the lungs. This 


period of illness is thus detailed by his biog- 
rapher : " His perfect patience, and the con- 
tinual bursts of love and thankfulness which 
were ever breaking forth throughout this 
season of restlessness and langor, can never 
be forgotten by those who watched with the 
deepest anxiety beside the sick bed of such a 
father. c No man/ he would say, 6 has been 
more favored than £• for even when I am ill, 
my complaints occasion little suffering/ " 

With reference to the "great affection 
borne him by his family/' he wrote in reply 
to Mr. Babington, who had expressed his 
pleasure at observing it. u No physician can 
devise, and no money can purchase such a 
restorative to a sick man." 

" It would indeed/' continues his son, 
"be strange had it been otherwise. He 
was beloved in general society ; but if he 
sparkled there, he shone at home. None but 
his own family could fully know the warmth 
of his heart, or the unequaled sweetness of 
his temper/' 


This illness was during the session of Par- 
liament, from which he was absent eight 
weeks. His departure from London was fol- 
lowed by another severe attack. Recovering 
in some degree from this, he lived necessarily 
in much seclusion. The time had now ar- 
rived when he must retire from the scene of 
his labors. For the press of business, the 
strife of debate, his decayed strength was no 
longer equal. 

Arrangement was suggested, by the kind- 
ness of a friend, that would have removed 
him to the Upper House. To this he replied ^ 
u To your friendly suggestion, respecting 
changing the field of my parliamentary la- 
bors, I must say a word or two, premising 
that I do not intend to continue in public 
life longer than the present Parliament. I 
will not deny that there have been periods 
in my life when, on worldly principles, the 
attainment of a permanent, easy, and quiet 
seat in the legislature would have been a 

pretty strong temptation to me. But I thank 



God, I was strengthened against yielding to 
it; For, (understand me rightly,) as I had 
done nothing to make it naturally come to 
me, I must have endeavored to go to it ; and 
this would have "been carving for myself, if I 
may use the expression, much more than a 
Christian ought to do/' 

In connection with this remarkable letter, 
we touch once more upon the question, why 
was not Wilberforce long before raised to a 
peerage, ennobled by parchments and rib- 
bons, honored by a title, etc. ? Simply be- 
cause his choice was otherwise. He must in 


this matter be believed to be sincere. In a 

private document he alludes to " the injury 
done to the credit and character of the House 
of Commons by numerous peerages that were 
granted to men who had no public claims to 
such a distinction/' These persons, in short, 
served the existing administration, and were 
paid for it. He says : u In this connexion 
an example therefore appeared to me to he re- 
quired of an opposite kind" This he truly 


says, u could not be exhibited more properly 
than in the instance of one, who, having been 
some time member for the greatest county in 
England, and being also the personal inti- 
mate of the Prime Minister, might be sup- 
posed likely, if he had made the endeavor, to 
succeed in obtaining the object of his wishes." 
Surely this paragraph sets the question be- 
yond a doubt. 

His final retirement was made with regret. 
He "regretted that he had done so little." 
"When congratulated on the achievements of 
his preeminently useful life, his unaffected 
humbleness of mind dictated the reply : 
" The heart knows its own bitterness. We 
alone know ourselves, and the opportunities 
we have enjoyed, and the comparative use we 
have made of them." 

This was by no means the result of a habit 
of depreciating himself, for even in this he 
speaks discriminately, and says : " I should 
not speak truly if I were to charge my par- 


liaxnentary life with sins of commission. I 
can call G-od to witness that I always spoke 
and voted according to my conscience, for the 
public and not for my own private interest." 
Tet in immediate connection with this he al- 
ludes to u opportunities of good inadequately 

Ah who, save One, ever dwelt on earth that 
might not make this charge his own ! 

It was not possible for such a man to pass 
from public life without observation and tes- 
timonials of regard. 

The charms of his genius thousands had 
acknowledged — to the power of his eloquence 
thousands could attest. One well qualified to 
judge esteemed him as the "most efficient 
speaker in the House of Commons." Pitt 
himself repeatedly declared, u Of all the men 
I ever knew, Wilberforce has the greatest 
natural eloquence." Says another who was 
accustomed to listen to him, and also to 
record his own impressions received at the 
time : u Wilberforce held a high and conspic- 


uous place in oratory, even at a time when 
English eloquence rivaled whatever we read 
of in Grreecp or Eome. His voice itself was 
"beautiful : deep, clear, articulate, flexible. I 
think his greatest efforts were made for the 
abolition of the trade in slaves, and in sup- 
porting some of the measures brought forward 
by Pitt, or for the more effectual suppression 
of revolutionary machinations ; but he often 
rose unprepared in mixed debate, on the 
impulse of the moment, and seldom sat down 
without having struck into that higher tone 
of general reasoning and vivid illustration, 
which left on his hearers the impression of 
power beyond what the occasion had called 

Such a man could not retire from public 
life without much observation from the pub- 
lic at large, and much sympathy from those 
who knew him best. 

One extract closes this period. It is from 
a letter to a friend. After speaking in glow- 


ing language of the "full harvest" younger 
men might live to see, from " the good seed 
now sowing — let me check," he continues, 
" this random sally of the imagination ; and 
for you, though much younger than me, as 
well as for myself, let me recollect that we 
may humbly hope, through the infinite mer- 
cies of our God and Saviour, to behold all the 
joys and glories that I have been anticipating 
for the generations to come, and to behold 
them from a higher elevation, and through a 
purer medium. We are not told that Moses 
was to experience, after death, any thing dif- 
ferent from mankind in general, and yet we 
know that he took part in the events of this 
lower world, and on the Mount of Transfigu- 
ration talked with Christ concerning his death, 
which he was to undergo at Jerusalem. And 
I love, my dear friend, to dwell on this idea, 
that after our departure from the scene of our 
earthly pilgrimage, we shall witness the devel- 
opment of the plans we may have formed for 
the benefit of our fellow-creatures ; the growth 


and fruitage of the good principles we have 
implanted and cultivated in our children ; 
and, above! all, the fulfillment of the prayers 
we have poured forth for them, in the large 
effusions on them of that heavenly grace 
which, above all things, we have implored as 
their portion. It is almost, I fear, to touch 
too tender a string, but there is one in my 
breast also which vibrates in exact unison with 
yours." Here, in allusion to those who have 
departed, he touches most tenderly upon the 
idea that they are still aware of ill that hap- 
pens to those they loved on earth. " I must 
no longer trespass on my slender stock of eye- 
sight, but say farewell." 


ttntmtnt snlr §mi\ 

The public life of Mr. Wilberforce having 
closed^ lie determined to go into retirement 
altogether. With this end in view, he pur- 
chased a residence at Highwood Hill, about 
ten miles from London. He did not, however, 
take immediate possession, but remained for 
a time at Uxbridge. In view of the changes 
of life, he writes : " May I be enabled more 
and more to walk, during the years which 
may yet remain for me, in the fear of the 
Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost. 
May I walk with God in my closing years, 
and then where, is of little consequence/' 

Still he was surrounded by a circle of 
friends. It had been remarked by one of 
these that "Mr. Wilberforce would create 


society in a desert/' Insensibly his conversa- 
tion, at this time, was wont to slide into recol- 
lections of past times. The great men and 
great events of a former day passed in review 
before him, and his visitors listened with de- 
light to the rich descriptions, the breathing- 
pictures which the " old man eloquent" was 
wont to unroll, one by one, before them. 

In June, 1826, he took possession of his 
Highwood home. This is marked by the fol- 
lowing entry in his Journal : " Late when I 
got home, and had a too hasty prayer for first 
settlement in a new house— all in confusion." 

Two distinguished persons at a dinner at a 
friend's house, when the doctrine of a partic- 
ular Providence was discussed, expressed their 
belief in it u on great occasions." Of this he 
remarks in his Journal : " As unphilosophical 
as it is unscriptural — must not the smallest 
links be as necessary for maintaining the con- 
tinuity as the greatest ? Great and little 
belong to our littleness ; but there is no great 

and little to God." 



Though retired, he deprecated the idea of 
being useless. Though his usual pursuits had 
ceased, he was, from principle as well as habit, 
in no danger of contracting the rust of idle- 
ness. His days were very regularly spent. 
He had still his correspondence, his charities, 
the duties of hospitality, the pursuits of lite- 
rature. His love of books had by no means 
lessened with age. His constitutional weak- 
ness of sight had always been unfavorable to 
close application, but he had acquired the 
habit of mastering the contents of a book by 
a sort of rapid glancing through its pages, 
and thus appropriating its pith and marrow 
more rapidly than many a laborious reader. 

But for a vivid sketching of these days, we 
quote the description of one of his friends :* 

u The picture which the dead leave on the 
minds of the survivors is not always lively or 
distinct. Although we may have fondly loved 
them, and may hallow the memory of their 
good qualities, we can not always summon 
* Familiar Sketch by J. J. G-urney. 

gurney's teibute. 303 

tlieir image before us ; but I venture to 
express my conviction that no one who has 
been accustomed to observe Wilberforce, will 
ever find the slightest difficulty in picturing 
him on the tablet of the mind. Who that 
knew him can fail to recall the rapid move- 
ments of his somewhat diminutive form, the 
illumination of his expressive countenance, 
and the nimble finger with which he used to 
seize on every little object which happened to 
adorn or diversify his path ? Much less can 
we forget his vivacious wit, so playful, yet so 
harmless ; the glow of his affections ; the 
urbanity of his manners, and the wondrous 
celerity with which he was wont to turn from 
one bright thought to another. Above all, 
however, his friends will never cease to re- 
member that peculiar sunshine which he 
threw over a company by the influence of a 
mind perpetually tuned to love and praise. 
I am ready to think there could be no greater 
luxury than that of roaming with him in 
solitude over green fields and gardens, and 


drawing out of his treasury things new and 

" This was most true of his hour of daily 
exercise. Who that ever joined him in it can 
not see him as he v walked round his garden 
at Highwood ?. Now in animated and even 
playful conversation, and then drawing from 
his copious pockets (to contain Dalrymple's 
state papers was the standard measure) some 
favorite volume or other— a Psalter, a Horace, 
a Shakspeare or Oowper, and reading and 
reciting, or 'refreshing' passages, and then 
catching at long-stored flower-leaves as the 
wind blew them from the pages, or standing 
before a favorite gum-cistus to repair the loss. 
Then he would point out the harmony of the 
tints, the beauty of the penciling, the perfec- 
tion of the coloring, and run up all into those 
ascriptions of praise to the Almighty that 
were ever welling forth from his grateful 
heart. He loved flowers with all the simple 
delight of childho(>I. He would hover from 
"bed to bed over his favorites ; and when he 


came in, even from the shortest walk, depos- 
ited a few that he had gathered safely in his 
room before he joined the breakfast-table. 
Often would he say, as he enjoyed their fra- 
grance, " How good is God to us ! What 
should we think of a friend who had furnished 
us with a magnificent house and all we need- 
ed, and then coming in to see that all had 
been provided according to his wishes, should 
be hurt that no scents had been placed in 
the rooms ? Tet so has Grod dealt with us. 
Surely flowers are the smiles of his goodness." 
Says another visitor : " His figure is now in 
my mind — his benevolent eye, his kind, con- 
siderate manner of speaking, his reverence for 
Scripture, his address, the pauses he made in 
his walk when he had any thing emphatic to 
say. I recollect one sentiment was, that the 
passages so frequent in Scripture importing 
the unwillingness of the Almighty that the 
sinner should perish, the invitations addressed 
to him to return, the remonstrances with him 

on his unbelief, etc., must be interpreted 



strictly and literally, or they would appear to 
be a mockery of man's misery, and to involve 
the most fearful imputations on the Divine 
character. Evasions of the force of such 
passages were, he thought, highly injurious, 
and went to sap the whole evidence and bear- 
ing of the Christian revelation. 

" Of his benevolence I need not speak ; but 
his kind construction of doubtful actions, his 
charitable language toward those from whom 
he most widely differed, his thorough forget- 
fulness of little affronts, were fruits of that 
general benevolence which continually ap- 
peared. The nearer you observed him, the 
more the habit of his mind appeared obviously 
to be modest and lowly. He was in as little 
measure as possible elated by the love and 
esteem of almost the whole civilized world, 
which, long before his death, had been 
accorded him. It required some manage- 
ment to draw him out in conversation, and 
therefore some of those who saw him only 
once might go away disappointed. But if he 


was lighted up, and in a small circle, his 
powers of conversation were prodigious — a 
natural eloquence was poured out, strokes of 
gentle playfulness and satire fell on all sides, 
and the company were soon absorbed in ad- 

Says another visitor, who writes from High- 
wood Hill : " I wish I could send you some- 
thing of what I have heard in the beautifully 
simple explanations that he gives every day 
of a chapter that he reads from the New Tes- 
tament. Then if you could hear him reading, 
as he does, the poems from the * Christian 
Year V I shall have much to tell you, at some 
future time, of sentiments and ideas of his, 
all so beautiful, and so true, and so indulgent 
— for I think nothing more striking in him 
than that spirit of general benevolence which 
governs all he says, joined to the extreme 
beauty of his voice. It does indeed make 
him appear c to love whatever he speaks of/ " 

Among his numerous charities, it had 
always been a favorite one to assist young 


men of promise. Foremost of these stands 
the name of Kirke White. Mr. Wilberforce 
was one of the first who appreciated and aided 
this unfortunate child of genius. In his busi- 
est days, too, it had been his custom to invite 
to his home those who were preparing for 
religious usefulness, and by conversation to 
learn their capacities and predilections. Often, 
by a well-timed direction, a suggestive word, 
a tone, even, of encouragement or admoni- 
tion, was he able to change the color of their 
doctrines. Now, however, that his absorbing 
cares were laid aside, he carried this manner 
of doing good further than before, by taking 
some of those he assisted home beneath his 
roof, defraying the expenses of their educa- 
tion, and devoting hours of his time to their 
improvement. In holidays these favored youth, 
absent at school, came home to the hospitable 
roof and the welcome that awaited them 
there, encouraged and blessed by the sunshine 
that constantly rested upon its inmates. Nor 
were the neighboring poor forgotten. Sought 


out in their cottage homes, they received, 
according as they needed, instruction or relief, 
and duly on Sabbath evenings were invited to 
join in worship with the family and the 
guests of Wilberforce. 

The erection of a chapel at Highwood, 
there being no church within three miles, 
occasioned much care, and gave rise to some 
annoying circumstances ; and the mention of 
this brings us to the record of unforeseen 
calamity. In the serenity of this beautiful 
retirement we might feel disposed to leave 
the venerated subject of this memorial, until 
the voice from heaven should call to his serv- 
ant, " Come up hither/' But change and 
vicissitudes end not till man himself is changed 
from this mortal to immortality. Trials came 
in the unwonted form of pecuniary depres- 

Some years before retiring from public life, 
Mr. Wilberforce wrote thus to one of his. sons, 
then at college : 

" On the topic of money, it may become ne- 


cessary, I fear, for me to speak to all my chil- 
dren. This returning so hastily to a metallic 
currency, a subject on which your master [the 
Bishop of Llandaff] has written with the pen 
of a political economist of no ordinary abil- 
ity, has so suddenly increased the value of 
money, and brought down the prices of all 
raw produce, that our farmers are gradually 
falling into ruin, and I shall be very glad, in- 
deed, if lowering my rents twenty-five per 
cent, (and they were always ordered to be 
fixed on fair and moderate terms) will enable 
my tenants to pay me the remainder. Yet, 
to a man who, like me, has never designedly 
saved any thing, such a diminution of reve- 
nue, a fourth, is not very convenient ; but 
certainly we must all learn and practice econ- 

This was written at a time when his family 
were most expensive ; moreover, the twenty- 
five per cent, ultimately became changed to 
thirty-seven, making a deduction of more 
than a third from his yearly income. 


His expenditure had always been liberal. 
Yet, for his public station and rank in life, 
his style of living had never been sumptuous. 
u You can do as you please/' said one, him- 
self a dispenser of luxurious banquets, " for 
people come to hear you talk/' He himself 
speaks of his habits being " a less expensive 
table, less costly furniture/' than others of 
similar fortune ; and adds, " as a conse- 
quence, I was able to act with a generosity 
from which, I am sure, had mere self-gratifi- 
cation been my object, I should have been 
abundantly recompensed." But his hospital- 
ities, as we have seen, were almost unbound- 
ed ; so much, so, that for the solitude neces- 
sary to rigid application, he was accustomed 
to sojourn at the mansion of some familiar 
friend, hidden, as it were, for the time, from 
interruption. Of his charities we have al- 
ready spoken, and will only add a short ex- 
tract from a letter to his oldest son. " I 
never intended to do more than not to exceed 
my income, Providence having placed me in 


a situation in which my charities were neces- 
sarily large. But, believe me, there is a spe- 
cial blessing in being liberal to the poor, and 
on the family of those who have been so ; 
and I doubt not my children will fare better 
even in this world, for real happiness, than 
if I had been saving twenty or thirty thou- 
sand pounds of what has been given away." 

In addition to the reduction of income, 
which we have mentioned, we must record 
the failure of an extensive farming specula- 
tion, entered into for the benefit of one of his 
sons. The loss of capital was so great as to 
render retrenchment necessary. It was 
thought best to give up the, mansion at 

That Mr. Wilberforce felt this calamity 
keenly, we have evidence ; but that it affect- 
ed in any degree his cheerful and serene 
spirit, does not appear. Just after this, we 
find a pleasant notice of a renewal of inter- 
course with one long known, Sir James Mac- 
intosh, whom he now met frequently. He 

macintosh's eeminiscence. 313 

says in his Journal, "Macintosh, came in, and 
sat most kindly chatting with me at dinner. 
What a paragon of a companion he is, quite 
unequaled I" 

To this we can not but add the pleasant 
account of this intercourse, given by Macin- 
tosh himself. " Do you remember Madame 
de Maintenon's exclamation, • Oh, the misery 
of having to amuse an old king, qui n'est pas 
amusable V Now, if I were called upon to 
describe Wilberforce in one word, I should 
say he was the most c amusable' man I ever 
met with in my life. Instead of having to 
think what subject will interest him, it is im- 
possible to hit upon one that will not. I 
never saw any one who touched life at so 
many points ; and this is the more remark- 
able in a man who is supposed to be absorbed 
in the contemplation of a future state. When 
he was in the House of Commons, he seemed 
to have the freshest mind of any man there. 
There was all the charm of youth about him. 

And he is quite as remarkable in this bright 



evening of his days, as when I saw him in 
his glory many years ago." 

The hidden springs of this beautiful seren- 
ity, at an age when the natural spirits may 
be expected to decay, can be found only in 
the harmony of his soul with the divine gov- 
ernment, and a clear perception of the di- 
vine goodness and love. 

These pecuniary losses were followed by a 
trial of a tenderer nature— the death of his 
surviving daughter. " Blessed be God," he 
says, during her illness, " we have reason to 
be thankful for the state of mind we witness 
in her ; a holy, humble reliance on her Sav- 
iour, enables her to enter the dark valley 
with Christian hope, leaning, as it were, on 
her Redeemer's arm, and supported and 
cheered by the promises of the G-ospel. We 
are in the hands of our heavenly Father, and 
I am sure no one has hitherto had such rea- 
son as myself to say that goodness and mercy 
have followed me all my days." 

Eemoving from Highwood, he became a 


resident with his sons. The tender reverence 
which these bore him as a parent, seems to 
have been' equaled only by their admiring 
love for his genius and character. That his 
altered circumstances had had the effect to 
bring him nearer to his children, he* records 
with much satisfaction. " Here/' he says, 
writing from one of these residences, " we 
have the delightful spectacle of those whom 
we love most, enjoying a large measure of 
human life's sweetest enjoyments, combined 
with the diligent discharge of its highest du- 
ties/' An additional joy was granted him in 
this evening of life ; the pure and overflow- 
ing delight that springs from the presence of 
happy childhood. Of this he says, " What a 
manifest benevolence there is in the Al- 
mighty's having rendered young children so 
eminently attractive, considering the degree 
in which their very existence must depend on 
the disposition of those around them, to bear 
with their little infirmities, sustain their 
weakness, and supply their wants." 


" The details of his life at his parsonage 
residences/' says one of his sons, " were much 
what they had been of late at Highwood, ex- 
cept that greater quietness gave him more 
time for reading, and for those devotional 
habits which manifestly grew with his in- 
creasing years, in which he found the Psalms 
and St. Paul's Epistles becoming more and 
more dear to him/' 

" His early walk, and his mid-day employ- 
ments, remained unaltered, and in the after- 
noon he still took, as heretofore, considerable 
exercise ; pacing at East Farleigh, during the 
winter, up and down a c sheltered, sunny, 
gravel walk ;• and, in the summer, climbing 
with delight at Brighton to the top of the 
chalk downs, or of an intermediate terrace, or 
walking along an unfrequented shore/' 

"His evenings were now as bright as ever, 
and though his power of retaining new ideas 
was greatly impaired, the colors of his earlier 
impressions seemed scarcely to fade." 

" He now never met a friend of earlier 


days, and whose principles were different from 
his own (and such he took great pains to 
see), without following up their intercourse 
with a friendly letter on their most important 
interests, pressing mainly on them that it 
was not yet too late for them to make the 
better choice. c This is what they need/ he 
repeated often ; * they get to think they are 
in for it, and that though they have chosen 
ill, it is too late to alter/ " 

This encouraging spirit, in the exertion of 
religious influence, he cultivated from prin- 
ciple, fearing that in the earlier and less as- 
sured and settled Christian hopes that had 
marked his own history, he had betrayed to 
others a state of mind with regard to them- 
selves, that savored of discouragement. This, 
in the calmer light of more matured piety, 
more entire and trusting love, he strove to 
correct. "At all events," said one, at the 
close of a religious conversation, " if you are 
right, it is now too late for me to alter. I 

am in for it." " No," he answered earnestly^ 




my deaf P., it is not too late. Only attend 
to these things, and you will find it true, 
' he that cometh unto me ; I will in no wise 
cast out/ " 

Though for two years he had quite given 
up the thought that he should ever speak in 
public again, he was induced, on the 12th of 
April, 1833, to propose at a meeting, in the 
town of Maidstone, a petition against slavery. 
" It was/' says his biographer, u an affecting 
sight to see the old man, who had been so 
long the champion of this cause, come forth 
once more from his retirement, and with an 
unquenched spirit, though with a weakened 
voice and failing body, maintain for the last 
time the cause of truth and justice." 

There was now no doubt but the entire 
abolition of negro slavery in the British do- 
minions would soon take place. The prin- 
ciple of compensation to the owners was, 
however, in debate. On this point his opin- 
ions were decided. All, he contended, who 
should actually suffer loss, should be duly re- 


numerated. The proposal, therefore, of a 
grant of twenty millions for this purpose, met 
his approval, and he had no hesitation in 
giving to this measure the weight of his 

This was his last appearance in public. 
His strength now visibly declined. We must 
follow him now down those declining paths 
that lead to the valley of shadows, yet where, 
to the eye of faith, rest evermore rays of 
heavenly brightness. A solemn and intense 
spirituality mark this period. The soul dwelt 
consciously on the borders of infinity. The 
world behind, and eternity before, the mind's 
eye looked calmly upon both. The attitude 
is sublimely Christian. That collected sur- 
vey of his state, that complete consciousness 
of his approaching change, that absence of 
exciting disease, that gradual decay of the 
natural flow of spirits, reveal the soul with no 
resource save as it joins itself, by an act of 
deliberate faith, to the Eternal. In that 
deep touching humility, that untroubled 


trust in God, we see the fitting end of a life 
such as we have endeavored to portray. In 
the so great nearness to the spiritual world, 
that it almost ceases to be a thing of antici- 
pation, the soul having already made the 
principles and sentiments of that purer state 
its' own, we find the highest form of Christian 
development. Mostly in words of thankful* 
ness and praise, do the emotions of the 
dying now find expression. " Be careful for 
nothing, but in every thing by prayer and 
supplication make known your requests to 
God." " The peace of God shall keep your 
hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." 

He was removed to Bath for the benefit of 
the waters, by which, on former occasions, he 
had been so much strengthened. After some 
time it was thought advisable to remove to 
London. He had, in 1824, derived great 
benefit from the skill of Dr. Chambers. He 
had himself, however, no expectation of being 
restored. " There is no one now/' he said, 
" that I can be useful to ; but we should 


always be trying to fbllow, in every respect, 
God's indicated will." 

He was* removed to London to die. The 
next day lie expressed himself " very anxious 
to dedicate the short remainder of time God 
might yet allot him, to the cultivation of 
union with Christ, and to the acquiring of 
more of his spirit." 

At this time Parliament was still in ses- 
sion, and many of his old friends flocked 
around him. "What -cause for thankful- 
ness," he exclaimed, "that God has always 
disposed people to treat me so kindly." 

It was a singular coincidence of circum- 
stances that he had come to London at that 
particular point of time. The Bill for the 
Abolition of Slavery had reached its second 
reading in the House of Commons, and the 
last public information that he received was, 
that his country was willing to redeem itself 
from the national disgrace at any sacrifice. 
". Thank God," said he, " that I shall have 
lived to witness a day, in which England is 


willing to give twenty millions sterling for the 
abolition of slavery/' 

This was his last recognition of public 
affairs. And so ended his career. His old 
friends gaining, as his waning strength per- 
mitted, admittance to his bedside, to gaze 
once more upon his familiar face, to catch 
once more the accents of his voice — his name, 
meanwhile, a watchword of liberty and glory 
in. the councils of the nation. Calmly he 
passed away — his weakness sustained by 
eternal strength, his decay opening the en- 
trance to eternal life. On the morning of 
July 9th, 1833, an old servant drew him out 
in a wheel-carriage. He looks once more on 
the green earth and smiling sky- — he con- 
verses as with renovated powers ; the spirit, 
the grace, the animation of former days is not 
yet gone ; he offers up the family prayer with 
marked fervor of religious affection ; he ap- 
pears stronger than before. It was but the 
sudden flaming up of the candle in its socket. 
It was " the last of earth/' 


A succession of fainting fits followed. If 
he had survived it would have been but as a 
wreck. ' Heaven in mercy spared the survivors 
that grief — the beholding of that brilliant 
intellect beclouded, that benignly speaking 
eye bereft of the light of thought. With one 
expression of humble trust, with one groan 
at the severance of the soul from its familiar 
tabernacle, the freed one passed from the 
circling embrace of earthly love to the pres- 
ence of his Redeemer. 

In the last resting place of so many of the 
noble dead, in the north transept of West- 
minster Abbey, hard by the tombs of his old 
companions, Pitt, and Fox, and Canning, 
may be found the name of Wilberforce.